The Bad Beginning: Or, Orphans! (A Series of Unfortunate Events #1)

The Bad Beginning: Or, Orphans! (A Series of Unfortunate Events #1)

by Lemony Snicket


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Are you made fainthearted by death? Does fire unnerve you? Is a villain something that might crop up in future nightmares of yours? Are you thrilled by nefarious plots? Is cold porridge upsetting to you? Vicious threats? Hooks? Uncomfortable clothing?

It is likely that your answers will reveal A Series of Unfortunate Events to be ill-suited for your personal use. A librarian, bookseller, or acquaintance should be able to suggest books more appropriate for your fragile temperament. But to the rarest of readers we say, "Proceed, but cautiously."

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061146305
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 05/08/2007
Series: A Series of Unfortunate Events
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 176
Sales rank: 60,546
Product dimensions: 5.12(w) x 7.62(h) x 0.35(d)
Age Range: 9 - 12 Years

About the Author

Lemony Snicket had an unusual education which may or may not explain his ability to evade capture. He is the author of the 13 volumes in A Series of Unfortunate Events, several picture books including The Dark, and the books collectively titled All The Wrong Questions.

Brett Helquist's celebrated art has graced books from the charming Bedtime for Bear, which he also wrote, to the New York Times–bestselling A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket to the glorious picture book adaptation of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol. He lives with his family in Brooklyn, New York.


Snicket is something of a nomad. Handler lives in San Francisco, California.

Date of Birth:

February 28, 1970

Place of Birth:

Handler was born in San Francisco in 1970, and says Snicket's family has roots in a land that's now underwater.


Handler is a 1992 graduate of Wesleyan University in Connecticut.

Read an Excerpt

A Series of Unfortunate Events #1: The Bad Beginning
Or, Orphans!

Chapter One

If you are interested in stories with happy endings, you would be better off reading some other book. In this book, not only is there no happy ending, there is no happy beginning and very few happy things in the middle. This is because not very many happy things happened in the lives of the three Baudelaire youngsters. Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire were intelligent children, and they were charming, and resourceful, and had pleasant facial features, but they were extremely unlucky, and most everything that happened to them was rife with misfortune, misery, and despair. I'm sorry to tell you this, but that is how the story goes.

Their misfortune began one day at Briny Beach. The three Baudelaire children lived with their parents in an enormous mansion at the heart of a dirty and busy city, and occasionally their parents gave them permission to take a rickety trolley-the word "rickety," you probably know, here means "unsteady" or "likely to collapse"-alone to the seashore, where they would spend the day as a sort of vacation as long as they were home for dinner. This particular morning it was gray and cloudy, which didn't bother the Baudelaire youngsters one bit. When it was hot and sunny, Briny Beach was crowded with tourists and it was impossible to find a good place to lay one's blanket. On gray and cloudy days, the Baudelaires had the beach to themselves to do what they liked.

Violet Baudelaire, the eldest, liked to skip rocks. Like most fourteen-year-olds, she was right-handed, so the rocks skipped farther across the murky water when Violet used herright hand than when she used her left. As she skipped rocks, she was looking out at the horizon and thinking about an invention she wanted to build. Anyone who knew Violet well could tell she was thinking hard, because her long hair was tied up in a ribbon to keep it out of her eyes. Violet had a real knack for inventing and building strange devices, so her brain was often filled with images of pulleys, levers, and gears, and she never wanted to be distracted by something as trivial as her hair. This morning she was thinking about how to construct a device that could retrieve a rock after you had skipped it into the ocean.

Klaus Baudelaire, the middle child, and the only boy, liked to examine creatures in tidepools. Klaus was a little older than twelve and wore glasses, which made him look intelligent. He was intelligent. The Baudelaire parents had an enormous library in their mansion, a room filled with thousands of books on nearly every subject. Being only twelve, Klaus of course had not read all of the books in the Baudelaire library, but he had read a great many of them and had retained a lot of the information from his readings. He knew how to tell an alligator from a crocodile. He knew who killed Julius Caesar. And he knew much about the tiny, slimy animals found at Briny Beach, which he was examining now.

Sunny Baudelaire, the youngest, liked to bite things. She was an infant, and very small for her age, scarcely larger than a boot. What she lacked in size, however, she made up for with the size and sharpness of her four teeth. Sunny was at an age where one mostly speaks in a series of unintelligible shrieks. Except when she used the few actual words in her vocabulary, like "bottle," "mommy," and "bite," most people had trouble understanding what it was that Sunny was saying. For instance, this morning she was saying "Gack!" over and over, which probably meant, "Look at that mysterious figure emerging from the fog!"

Sure enough, in the distance along the misty shore of Briny Beach there could be seen a tall figure striding toward the Baudelaire children. Sunny had already been staring and shrieking at the figure for some time when Klaus looked up from the spiny crab he was examining, and saw it too. He reached over and touched Violet's arm, bringing her out of her inventing thoughts.

"Look at that," Klaus said, and pointed toward the figure. It was drawing closer, and the children could see a few details. It was about the size of an adult, except its head was tall, and rather square.

"What do you think it is?" Violet asked.

"I don't know," Klaus said, squinting at it, "but it seems to be moving right toward us."

"We're alone on the beach," Violet said, a little nervously. "There's nobody else it could be moving toward." She felt the slender, smooth stone in her left hand, which she had been about to try to skip as far as she could. She had a sudden thought to throw it at the figure, because it seemed so frightening.

"It only seems scary," Klaus said, as if reading his sister's thoughts, "because of all the mist."

This was true. As the figure reached them, the children saw with relief that it was not anybody frightening at all, but somebody they knew: Mr. Poe. Mr. Poe was a friend of Mr. and Mrs. Baudelaire's whom the children had met many times at dinner parties. One of the things Violet, Klaus, and Sunny really liked about their parents was that they didn't send their children away when they had company over, but allowed them to join the adults at the dinner table and participate in the conversation as long as they helped clear the table. The children remembered Mr. Poe because he always had a cold and was constantly excusing himself from the table to have a fit of coughing in the next room.

Mr. Poe took off his top hat, which had made his head look large and square in the fog, and stood for a moment, coughing loudly into a white handkerchief. Violet and Klaus moved forward to shake his hand and say how do you do.

"How do you do?" said Violet.

"How do you do?" said Klaus.

"Odo yow!" said Sunny.

"Fine, thank you," said Mr. Poe, but he looked very sad. For a few seconds nobody said anything, and the children wondered what Mr. Poe was doing there at Briny Beach, when he should have been at the bank in the city, where he worked. He was not dressed for the beach.

"It's a nice day," Violet said finally, making conversation. Sunny made a noise that sounded like an angry bird, and Klaus picked her up and held her.

"Yes, it is a nice day," Mr. Poe said absently, staring out at the empty beach. "I'm afraid I have some very bad news for you children."

The three Baudelaire siblings looked at him. Violet, with some embarrassment, felt the stone in her left hand and was glad she had not thrown it at Mr. Poe.

"Your parents," Mr. Poe said, "have perished in a terrible fire."

The children didn't say anything.

"They perished," Mr. Poe said, "in a fire which destroyed the entire house. I'm very, very sorry to tell you this, my dears."

Violet took her eyes off Mr. Poe and stared out at the ocean. Mr. Poe had never called the Baudelaire children "my dears" before. She understood the words he was saying but thought he must be joking, playing a terrible joke on her and her brother and sister.

"'Perished,'" Mr. Poe said, "means 'killed.'"

"We know what the word 'perished' means," Klaus said, crossly. He did know what the word "perished" meant, but he was still having trouble understanding exactly what it was that Mr. Poe had said. It seemed to him that Mr. Poe must somehow have misspoken.

"The fire department arrived, of course," Mr. Poe said, "but they were too late. The entire house was engulfed in fire. It burned to the ground."

Klaus pictured all the books in the library, going up in flames. Now he'd never read all of them.Mr. Poe coughed several times into his handkerchief before continuing. "I was sent to retrieve you here, and to take you to my home, where you'll stay for some time while we figure things out. I am the executor of your parents' estate. That means I will be handling their enormous fortune and figuring out where you children will go. When Violet comes of age, the fortune will be yours, but the bank will take charge of it until you are old enough."

Although he said he was the executor, Violet felt like Mr. Poe was the executioner. He had simply walked down the beach to them and changed their lives forever.

"Come with me," Mr. Poe said, and held out his hand. In order to take it, Violet had to drop the stone she was holding. Klaus took Violet's other hand, and Sunny took Klaus's other hand, and in that manner the three Baudelaire children - the Baudelaire orphans, now - were led away from the beach and from their previous lives.

A Series of Unfortunate Events #1: The Bad Beginning
Or, Orphans!
. Copyright © by Lemony Snicket. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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The Bad Beginning Or, Orphans! (A Series of Unfortunate Events #1) 0 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A Series of Unfortunate Events The Bad Beginnning This story is about three children whose parents are killed in a fire, so they have to go live with their uncle, Count Olaf. When the three children¿s parents are killed in the fire, their dad¿s old friend, Mr. Poe, helps them. Mr. Poe gives them over to Count Olaf, and then they realize he¿s only after the family fortune. The three children try to catch the Count throughout the book. I recommend this book to everyone, because it keeps you on the edge of your seat. I liked this book because the children are smart. They were smart because when Count Olaf tried to marry the oldest child, Violet, they were reading laws about marriage. They made a plan to catch Count Olaf trying to marry Violet against her will. To catch Count Olaf is very smart because they read the law books and made plans. I liked this book because of the children¿s personalities. They were always happy when they were together doing anything. They were motivated when working on the plan to catch Count Olaf. They knew that they shouldn¿t be scared of Count Olaf because they had each other. I liked this book because it leaves you with a cliffhanger. You don¿t know what is going to happen to the children when they leave Count Olaf. You wonder where Count Olaf disappeared to, and what is he going to do when he comes back. When you are reading this book you feel like you are in the children¿s shoes, and still keeps you on the edge of your seat. Reading this book leaves you with a cliffhanger to let you know there is another a story.
tulikangaroo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Tim Curry is exquisitely creepy as the narrator of this tale, but the book itself is... odd. I don't need everything to be sunshine and roses, but for some reason I found this disturbing. A legal guardian scheming to marry his 14-year-old "daughter" in order to get her fortune? Dangling the infant sister off a 3-story tower as collateral? Ew. I'm curious - how many children in the target age range like these books? Or is it their ironic parents that are the real fans...
cindyXIII on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Wow, this book brings back so many childhood memories. i still remembering walking over to my fourth grade teacher, Ms. Maze's, bookshelf and picking this book up. Little did I know I would become obsessed with this series. The Series of Unfortunate Events was the first series I ever finished. I would say it sparked my love for reading. I'm glad my fourth grade self decided to read this book to the end. I love Lemony Snicket :)He's one of my favorite authors.
ceci.m.foster on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The bad beginning is the first book in an interesting series called, a series of unfortunate events. These stories are told very interestingly, in a third person point of view, and in past tense form. This is the story of the three Baudelaire orphans whose parents die in a fire. They are placed in the care of Mr. Poe, a stupid banker, who always seems to have a cold. Mr. Poe places them in the care of Count Olaf, an evil villain who is after the Baudelaire fortune which is not to be touched until Violet, the eldest Baudelaire, is of age. Count Olaf and his theater group assistants, force the orphans to clean, cook, and give the curse of his presence forever. The orphans notify Mr. Poe, who tells them that Count Olaf is acting in local parent-is, which means acting as a parent to the adopted children in ways other than their parents used to. Count Olaf has one symbol of his treachery, an eye, He has a tattoo of one on his left ankle. count Olaf tries to get control of the fortune by forcing Violet to marry him. He is found out, but promises never to leave the orphans alone.
sturlington on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In this, the first installment of ¿A Series of Unfortunate Events,¿ the reader is warned right from the beginning that if a happy ending is what they want, they¿d better look elsewhere. But I still think most readers with a developed sense of humor will be charmed by this parody of Victorian-style children¿s novels, in which children are routinely orphaned and placed at the mercy of scheming relatives, cold porridge and itchy clothes.One of my favorite devices was the author¿s habit of defining any difficult word he happened to use in the course of telling the story, such as ¿fitfully¿ and ¿mystical¿, as well as elaborating on such abstract concepts as the difference between literally and figuratively doing something. Intelligent children who aren¿t bothered by stories in which horrible things happen to other intelligent children (who yet always seem to persevere through the strength of their own character and wits) will not only get a funny, fast-paced, engaging story but might also learn a thing or two along the way.
Childrenslit on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book as the first page states is not a book full of happiness. The book had some good vocabulary and the main characters three children are very resourceful and in the end their quick thinking saves the day. While this book is probably one of my least favorite children books they are extreamly popular.
bookwormteri on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
So dark. I can totally see the appeal for children, but I had such a hard time with this short little read. Picturing these events happening to any children without adults stepping in was horrifying to me. But I guess for kids to read about other kids getting the best of this evil grown up might be entertaining.
mthelibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My son loved this as a read-aloud at age 9 and did not want me to put it down. I have put the next in the series in his backpack for school, in hopes he will continue on his own.
catz on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Lemony Snicket did a great job on these books and making them so unfortunate at times and just a couple times they were fortunate. I really liked how he made the characters. And how their characteristicts really seemed to fit them.
imnotsatan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was sadly disappointed by this book. I absolutely love dark and absurdist humor, and I expected this to be right up my street. Unfortunately, it's not funny. It's just mean- and not mean enough to swing back around to absurd. I can get behind an author torturing his characters for fun, but it isn't fun. It's boring, and the story's just not well written enough as a straight novel to keep trudging through it.It's entirely possible that I just don't get it, but I think this is a series I can safely skip.
Chancie More than 1 year ago
A quick, entertaining read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
sportsstar28 More than 1 year ago
Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket I'd bet you have had some unfortunate events happen to you. But I'm sure nothing is this bad. I like this book because it is barley realistic fiction, meaning its true, but it's very hard to believe things like this can really happen. The book is sad in a way, because the children are being treated so badly. First, my book is about three wealthy children who's names are; Sunny, Voilet, and Klaus. While they are at the beach, something terrible happens. They find this out because a man, who they know pretty well, is sent to the beach to tell them the news. Their parents, along with their big house got buried to pieces. "They perished," Mr.Poe said, "in a fire, that destroyed the whole house. I'm very, very sorry to tell you this, my dears." (page 12) Now, because of this tragedy, the children are forced to live with their closest and only relative. He happens to be poor, filthy, and mean. He is only keeping the kids to get the money the oldest child (Voilet) gets when she is a certain age. Violet is not at that age yet, and even when she is at the age, she doesn't have to share the money with Count Olaf (the guardian/relative.) she only has to share it with her siblings, and if she gets a husband. Olaf doesn't like that, and makes up a play that she children are in. in the play; Voilet gets married to Count Olaf. Violet is unsure of this, but goes along with it when Olaf tricks her into thinking the play is just fake. The law is that if a child wants to get married and that child is under the age of 18, she must have permission from a legal guardian. The law also states that the married couple must share all their money. Therefore, Olaf tires to get her money, and she doesn't even know. You'll have to read the book to find out what happens next. I would give this book four out of five stars because it is action packed, uses detail, and makes you want to read more. The thing I dislike is how this book is SO unfortunate and it is just bad event after bad event after bad event. And nothing good every happens. I would recommend this book to both boys and girls. Lemony Snicket writes about bad stuff, and both boys and girls can read about that. It is for almost all ages, because all the herd or made up words have the meaning next to it, so there is no confusion. If you needed a specific age it would be from 5th to 6th graders.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was good, but if you don't like reading sad books then you shouldn't read it. A lot of stuff takes twist and turns. It keeps you interested and wanting more. You won't be able to put the book down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book so much though it was depressing at parts. It was very absorbing and thrilling. It has a pretty happy ending. The story is about three kids whose parents are killed in a housefire. Then the children are adopted by ther gruesome uncle who lives in a ramshackled house next to a courtroom judge. The only reason that he took them in was because they were very wealthy, and he wanted their money. Then, he tried to trick Violet, the youndest child, into marrying him, but they get to the bottom of it, and he admits that he was trying to steal from them. But in a flick of a lightswitch, POOF, he was gone!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This story is sad, funny,and good. It is one of my favorite stories. This story is about three kids who parents are killed but that is not all. you may think everything is fine but the children have to live with their bewitched uncle. They are left doing the uncle chores and while the children work the uncle is scheming to take their fortune.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is my favorite book ever. Its nerveracking, scary, and great but sad at times. When i first started reading this book i couldn't stop reading it. so i stayed up 3 hours reading this book until i was done. since then i have read the whole series.