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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Lemony Snicket, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 52
1. Lemony Snicket Launches The ‘You Choose the Mystery’ Video Series

Lemony Snicket recently released the third installment of the All the Wrong Questions series. To celebrate, he has created the “You Choose the Mystery” interactive video series. 34 pieces have been uploaded to the LemonySnicketLibrary Youtube channel. We’ve embedded the first video above—what do you think? (via GeekDad)

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2. Video Sunday: Dancing in the Stacks

A veritable plethora of dancing librarians greet you this weekend.  Now I’ll be the first to say that if you’re going to have librarians or library patrons dancing in a video then the video has to be pretty darn impressive in some way.  Life’s too short otherwise.  But thing is, these folks are pretty extraordinary.  Take, for example, this one from the Texas A&M University libraries as a kind of orientation to their services.  Sure, the song’s been overdone but at least they gave it a bit of class:

Thanks to mom for the link.

Then there’s Nashville.  I just had the pleasure of speaking alongside my co-author Julie Danielson (of Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast fame) at the Southern Festival of the Book.  While there I had time enough to catch one quick sneaky peek at their library.  It’s a lucky thing I didn’t see any of their librarians or I was have fangirled out on them after watching this video.  I’m a sucker for a talented hand puppet artist:

Then, in other news, old timey footage.  The deeply amusing Lemony Snicket video.  The YOU CHOOSE THE MYSTERY campaign has begun.  Beguiled? Entranced? Confounded?  You will be:

Start following the mystery here.  It’s like that old Choose Your Own Adventure series except, y’know.  Less disembowling.

While I am indeed the mother of a 3-year-old I’ll confess that when it comes to contemporary children’s television programming I’m more liable to pull out the classic Electric Company / Sesame Street / School House Rock DVDs than turn on something from the 21st century.  Still, I’ve succumbed to the lures of Daniel Tiger (extemporized upon here) but I’ve only dipped a toe in current Sesame Street schtoof.  Maybe that’s why I was so shocked when I saw today’s video.  Cookie has always spoofed contemporary film (Chariots of Fur, anyone?) but rarely so in-depth.  Wowza.

While not strictly children’s book related, regarding the book as object is certainly of any interest to those parents, teachers, and librarians dealing with kids who put their books through the paces physically.  Plus Chronicle does the best videos so I’d be amiss in not posting this:

Neil Numberman (with whom I am in competition for Best Alliterative Picture Book Author Name… and he’s winning) takes on the arduous process of creating a picture book cover and turns it into time lapse art. Behold:

How to Make a Children’s Book Cover (in 1:16) from Neil Numberman on Vimeo.

Hat tip to Greenwillow Books for the link.

And while Banned Books Week may have gone, as long as banning continues so too will the need for remarkably sane (and fun) little videos like this one from Dav Pilkey calling for just a little common sense:

And finally, for today’s off-topic video, Michael Arndt turned my attention to this little beauty.  It’s The Missing Scarf, a multiple award winning short film that feels, at first anyway, like a picture book.  Stick with it.  As it continues you start to really get into the feel (and George Takei should, insofar as I can tell, narrate everything in this world from here on in).  I should warn some of you that in spite of its fluffy feel, the ending would prove a bit bleak for the younger kids so be wary and warned and enjoy!

The Missing Scarf from Eoin Duffy on Vimeo.

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3. “Shouldn’t You Be in School?”

Crime is afoot again in the town of Stain'd-by-the-Sea, and this time it's arson. Is the villain Hangfire? Where are all the schoolchildren? Will our young investigator ask the right questions in time? Find out in the third installment written in Snicket's signature voice with art by Seth. Books mentioned in this post "Shouldn't You Be in [...]

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4. Fusenews: Avada ke-dairy

  • I have never, in all my livelong days, been so proud of an illustrator.  And Mary Engelbreit at that.  For someone as well-established as she is the decision to create and sell a print with all proceeds going to the Michael Brown Jr. Memorial Fund, which supports the family of Michael Brown, the Missouri teenager who was gunned down by police two weeks ago.  Here’s what it looks like:

mary engelbreit ferguson Fusenews: Avada ke dairy

Next thing you know Ms. Engelbreit is being blasted by haters and trolls for this work.  You can read about the controversy and her measured, intelligent response here.

  • While we are on the subject of Ferguson, Phil Nel created a list of links and resources for teachers who are teaching their students about the events.  I was happy to see he included the impressive Storify #KidLitForJustice, that was assembled by Ebony Elizabeth Thomas.
  • iNK (Interesting Nonfiction for Kids) that group of thirty authors of nonfiction books for children recently came up with an interesting notion.  Thinking about how to best reach out to teachers and homeschooling parents they’ve come up with  The Nonfiction Minute—a daily posting of  intriguing tidbits of nonfiction designed to stimulate curiosity, with a new one published online every weekday. Say they, “Each Nonfiction Minute website entry will include an audio file of the author reading his or her text, so students can actually hear the author’s voice, making the content accessible to less fluent readers.  The  audio frees us from the constraints of children’s reading vocabulary, which is what makes textbooks and many children’s books designed for the classroom so bland.  We can concentrate on creating a sense of excitement about our subject matter for our young listeners, readers, and future readers.”  Right now they’re in the the early stages of crowdfunding via IndieGoGo so head on over and give them your support if you can.  It’s a neat notion.
  • Did you see this, by the way?

Snicket Fusenews: Avada ke dairy

  • I’m not a Dr. Who fan myself but that’s more because I simply haven’t watched the show rather than any particular dislike or anything.  So I was very amused by the theory posed recently that Willie Wonka is the final regeneration of The Doctor.  And they make a mighty strong case.
  • And speaking of cool, I almost missed it but it looks as though 3-D printers are creating three dimensional books for blind children these days.  The classics are getting an all new look.  Fascinating, yes?  Thanks to Stephanie Whelan for the link.
  • This is a bit of a downer.  I was always very impressed that Britain had taken the time to establish a funny prize for kids.  Now we learn that the Roald Dahl Funny Prize has been put on hold.  It’ll be back in 2016 but still.  Bummer.
  • Daily Image:

You know, I love The Minnesotan State Fair.  I think it’s one of the best State Fairs in the nation.  But even I have to admit that when it comes to butter sculptures, Iowa has Minnesota beat.  The evidence?

butterpotter 500x375 Fusenews: Avada ke dairy

Hard to compete with that. Thanks to Lisa S. Funkenspruherin for the link.

 

 

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5. Five Family Favorites with Author Maria T. Lennon

Maria T. Lennon is a graduate of the London School of Economics, a novelist, a screenwriter, and the author of Confessions of a So-called Middle Child, the first book featuring the irrepressible Charlie C. Cooper.

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6. Guest Book Review: The Dark by Lemony Snickett

darkBook Review: The Dark by Lemony Snicket (Author), Jon Klassen (Illustrator)
Age Range: 3 – 6 years
Grade Level: Preschool – 1
Hardcover: 40 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; First Edition edition (April 2, 2013)
ISBN-10: 0316187488
ISBN-13: 978-0316187480
Product Dimensions: 11 x 7.1 x 0.4 inches

Rating: Five stars

The dark is a very interesting thing. There’s a lot of it when the light is off, as young Laszlo finds out when his night light bulb fails. Then the dark comes into his room. Prior to this event, the dark lived quite happily in (unsurprisingly) dark places such as the basement, drawers that no one ever opened, and occasionally behind the shower curtains. At night the dark had a huge expanse to roam outside the creaky old house where they both lived. Laszlo and the dark respected each other’s space. The dark knew Laszlo and Laszlo knew the dark—in fact they even greeted each other. Well, the dark didn’t actually answer back. It never spoke until one fateful night when the bulb in Laszlo’s night light fails. The dark calls to Laszlo. Then Laszlo gets out of bed and answers the dark, which leads him all the way down to the basement…

This deceptively simple illustrated story is especially relevant for kids who are afraid of the dark. Who can say they didn’t fear something that lived under the bed, behind the door (no, that was never an old dressing gown!), or at the bottom of the stairs? This book depicts the dark and the fears of a little boy who has to learn that everything has its designated place and purpose. Without the dark there is no light. Without the night there is no day. Without the dark we would never see the moon and the stars. Without all the things in Laszlo’s house, providing hiding places for the dark, there would be no dark. And the dark is a necessary part of life. The size of the book, 11×7.1 inches is actually the perfect size for little hands to grasp. In addition, the dark looks very big (there’s a lot of it, as I said) while Laszlo looks very small, creating a huge contrast between them. The story has mystery, shivers, scary bits, and leads the young reader all the way down to the basement, where the dark turns out to be very helpful indeed. I’d recommend this for all young readers and their parents (who might still be afraid of the dark). It is a charming tale by the inimitable Lemony Snickett, beautifully illustrated by Jon Klassen.

Purchase at http://www.amazon.com/Dark-Bccb-Ribbon-Picture-Awards/dp/0316187488 

Reviewer’s bio: Fiona Ingram is an award-winning middle grade author who is passionate about getting kids interested in reading. Find out more about Fiona and her books on www.FionaIngram.com. She reviews books for the Jozikids Blog.


0 Comments on Guest Book Review: The Dark by Lemony Snickett as of 8/7/2014 2:46:00 AM
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7. Illustration Inspiration: Carson Ellis

Carson Ellis is an award-winning illustrator who has provided art for bestsellers such as "The Mysterious Benedict Society" by Trenton Lee Stewart, The Composer Is Dead by Lemony Snicket, and the "Wildwood Chronicles" by her husband, Colin Meloy.

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8. Plagiarism Scandal Pits Lemony Snicket Against Malcolm Gladwell

snicket & gladwell

In honor of April Fool’s Day, a plagiarism scandal has ignited between Lemony Snicket and Malcolm Gladwell.

According to a press release posted on Snicket’s website, Gladwell’s latest book David & Goliath contains original material sourced from Snicket’s new book File Under: 13 Suspicious Incidents. To back up his accusations, Snicket has shared “evidence” on his website to support his claims.

Publishers Weekly sought after Snicket for a comment and he gave the following statement: “Every time I blink Malcolm Gladwell steals from me like an outright outlier. I’ve reached the tipping point. It’s like an old biblical story I can’t think of right now.” Gladwell himself has given this response: “Mr. Snicket is asking All The Wrong  Questions. He better watch out, or this will turn into a series of something or other.”

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9. Best New Kids Stories | April 2014

Hot New Releases & Popular Kids Stories Check out some of the best new kids books that release this month. April will be exciting for many children's book lovers with the release of another Mo Willems "Pigeon" book, The Pigeon Needs a Bath, and the latest from Lemont Snicket, File Under: 13 Suspicious Incidents. There's also new books for "Big Nate" and "The Never Girls" fans—and a beautiful new novel by debut author Ava Dellaira, Love Letters to the Dead.

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10. 29 Myths on the Swinster Pharmacy

29 Myths on the Swinster Pharmacy by Lemony Snicket and Lisa Brownby Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Lisa Brown

published 2014 by McSweeney’s/McMullens

29 Myths on the Swinster Pharmacy by Lemony Snicket and Lisa BrownDo you know Because of Winn-Dixie? (Have I told you about the time I told Kate DiCamillo I wrote because of Winn-Dixie and obviously meant because of Because of Winn-Dixie but she cackled and my heart soared?)

Anyway. There’s a thing called a Littmus Lozenge. It’s a candy that makes you taste your sorrow and your sad and your sweet, all at once. Maybe it’s the thought of a lozenge sounding like something medicinal, or maybe it’s cause this pharmacy gave me both comfort and the heebie-jeebies, but reading this book felt a little like tasting a Littmus Lozenge.29 Myths on the Swinster Pharmacy by Lemony Snicket and Lisa BrownSomething unsettling hovers around this place, but it beckons me, too. And I’m not alone in that: those two myth-collectors/busters are at once intrigued and terrified.

It’s weird and charming and confusing and a head-scratcher all at once.

I think that’s exactly what makes it a successful story for kids. Everything doesn’t have to make sense. Offbeat is okay.

Because let’s face it: kid are weird and charming and confusing. They teeter in that fuzzy place between wonder and reality. This is a book that honors this and celebrates that. 29 Myths on the Swinster Pharmacy by Lemony Snicket and Lisa Brown29 Myths on the Swinster Pharmacy by Lemony Snicket and Lisa BrownIs it suspicious, a lady going in and coming out in the same outfit? No. Not necessarily. But see: you are an adult. You are past your prime of delighting in the bizarre and making sense or screwballs out of it. When you read this, rest in it. Let it catapult you from being a grownup. It’s good for you. And then share it with a kid. They’ll get it.29 Myths on the Swinster Pharmacy by Lemony Snicket and Lisa Brown29 Myths on the Swinster Pharmacy by Lemony Snicket and Lisa BrownPhysically, I love the compact trim size because it feels like a manual, like a notebook, like some peculiar pamphlet to some oddball prescription in the pharmacy. It’s like a secret. A hush.29 Myths on the Swinster Pharmacy by Lemony Snicket and Lisa Brown29 Myths on the Swinster Pharmacy by Lemony Snicket and Lisa BrownThen! The cover unfolds to show the depths of the Swinster Pharmacy. When you flip it over, there’s a map of the town. Don’t ask me why I didn’t show you that. Just trust me. (If you dare.)29 Myths on the Swinster Pharmacy by Lemony Snicket and Lisa Brownch

P.S. – Another numbered book I loved recently is How to Bicycle to the Moon to Plant Sunflowers, by Mordecai Gerstein. A total must read if you love quirk and lists like me.

The publisher provided a review copy of 29 Myths on the Swinster Pharmacy, but thoughts and love are my own.


Tagged: cover design, lemony snicket, lisa brown, scale, trim size

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11. A Children’s Book Fever Dream: Compounding Awesome Upon Awesome

TheScieszkaStare e1364949716583 224x300 A Childrens Book Fever Dream: Compounding Awesome Upon AwesomeThere are some days when you are so utterly floored by delight that all you can do is throw up your hands and say to the universe, “I’m out!”  That was yesterday.  I’m out, folks.  I hit the top.  It’s all downhill from here.  And I’m so young!  It’s sad when you peak at 34.

The source of this joy/woe is Allie Bruce at the Bank Street School for Children’s library.  As you may know, if you attended my Children’s Literary Salon on Alternative Children’s Librarians, Allie is Bank Street’s children’s librarian and a more talented young ‘un you could not hope to find.  She asked me if I could come in one day to speak to some of her sixth graders about book jackets.  And since that is a topic I could talk about all day and night, I readily agreed.

Oh.  And while I was there, Lemony Snicket/Daniel Handler and Jon Klassen would stop by to do their very first dual presentation of their new book The Dark.

But wait.  There’s more.

Neil Gaiman would also be stopping by.  And Mr. Handler’s wife Lisa Brown.  And Jon Scieszka might come along.  As well as Kerlan Collection guru Lisa Von Drasek (newly appointed as a National Book Award committee judge).

So . . . there was that.

That morning I headed on over with my handy dandy FlashDrive, forgetting to bring my camera.  Luckily everything in my purse is a camera these days.  My phone is a camera.  My iPod is a camera.  My lipstick, extra shoes, and hairbrush may all well have cameras in them, for all I know.

My presentation seemed to go all right.  Allie was nice about it anyway, and though I was mildly unnerved when Lisa Von Drasek appeared, taking a picture with an iPad (it is hard to stay calm in the face of a large flat surface aimed at your head) I didn’t panic once.  For the record, the kids assured me that none of them liked the old cover of Okay for Now and did prefer the new paperback jacket.  They also agreed with me that the British cover of Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos is heads and tails more interesting than the American one.  Duh.

When I was done I got to flit about.  In my flitting I saw that the Bank Street library’s children’s librarian’s office contains an ancient Jon Scieszka mask of yore.  The kind of mask that reminds you of Eraserhead more than anything else.  The mask is Lisa Von Drasek’s by right, and she had a fascinating story about when it was made and its original purpose.  Apparently when it first came out it was handed to a roomful of librarians.  Jon knew nothing about it and he walked in to see his own visage staring back at him from hundreds of faces.  “It was like Being John Malkovich“, he said.  Allie assured me that the kids who see it are fascinated.  Sometimes they commune with it on a near spiritual level.

CommuningWithScieszka2 500x375 A Childrens Book Fever Dream: Compounding Awesome Upon Awesome

CommuningWithScieszka1 500x375 A Childrens Book Fever Dream: Compounding Awesome Upon Awesome

Jon Klassen and Daniel Handler were slated to start signing a bunch of copies of their book but until they did we figured we’d hang out in The Quiet Room (which proved to be a bit of a misnomer).  I don’t own a clutch.  Not really.  So in lieu of one I tend to carry around a book.  Thus it was that the galley of Merrie Haskell’s Handbook for Dragon Slayers got lugged, poor thing, hither and thither, as I stuffed an interesting assortment of business cards, flyers, and Starbucks napkins into its pages.  Apparently I was worried that I’d have nothing to do and would need some entertainment.  Oh, the wrongness of little me.

Jon, Daniel, the remarkable Lisa Brown, her thoroughly enjoyable offspring (who had written one helluva graphic novel illustrated by his mom), Victoria Stapleton in shoes I should have caught on film, and a whole host of other folks flooded in.  Before long it was lunch.  Picture, if you will, what it is like to eat lunch across from Scieszka and Handler with Lisa Brown at your side and Lisa Von Drasek heading the table. I am not particularly good at socializing when overwhelmed.  I tend to get giggly.  And loud.  And I make strange little jokes that feed off of references that make sense only in my own head.  So while I was not particularly interesting at this gathering, the rest of the folks were superb.  In the future I’m taking my little audio recorder with me to capture this kind of situation on tape for the benefit of future generations.  See if I don’t.

GaimanKlassenSnicket e1364950548554 224x300 A Childrens Book Fever Dream: Compounding Awesome Upon AwesomeSo then Neil Gaiman comes in.  That was nice.  He’s a bit beardy right now.  Much with the stubble, which has a pleasant graying sheen to it.  Shocker: He wore black.  I’m not shy around famous folks, but Gaiman is a tricky one.  He’s a very kind famous person.  If you introduce yourself to him he’ll look you dead square in the eye, shake your hand, and seem interested in whatever babble proceeds to emanate from your mouth.  But famous people on his level are a bit difficult to converse with casually, and because they are at a distinct disadvantage to you (you know who they are, but they meet hundreds of people every day and can’t remember you as well) you can’t rely on them remembering any past conversations you might have had.  So I just skipped the whole meet Gaiman part of the day and chatted with Jon Klassen instead.  And Jon is a true doll.  The kind of guy you’d try to weasel yourself into sitting next to at a dinner party.  I’m trying to pin down exactly what his personality reminds me of, but it’s hard.  In any case, I lamented with him that he’d used such great material on his Boston Horn Book Globe Award speech now that he had to write a Caldecott one (he’s almost done with it, Roger, don’t worry!).

Then it was time for the presentation!  We proceeded to the Bank Street auditorium, which was apparently built on the side of a mountain.  It’s one of those auditoriums where you get the distinct feeling that if you tripped and fell down the stairs they’d have to pluck your various limbs out of the four corners of the room post-landing.  We sat up top, the kiddos sitting beneath us, closer to the stage.  And what lively kiddos they were too!  I suspect they were fresh off of lunch and had had their fill of pudding pops or whatever it is kids eat today (Note to Self: Check and see if pudding pops still exist . . . ditto Hydrox cookies).  They were bouncy.  Very bouncy.  Tres bouncy.  Handler played some background music for them which, interestingly, did not seem to affect them one way or another.  And so the fun began.

Now Daniel and Jon had never presented together.  Their PowerPoint presentation had not even been finished as of the night before.  And here they were, with Gaiman, ready to wow a room on a brand new book for the very first time.

SnicketKlassen e1364950835631 225x300 A Childrens Book Fever Dream: Compounding Awesome Upon AwesomeLadies and gentlemen, let us discuss the nature of comedic chemistry.  Think of all the great pairings of the past.  Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner.  Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin.  Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.  Now think of the great comedic children’s book pairings out there.  Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith.  Mac Barnett and Adam Rex.  Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld (they get extra points for playing ping pong while they present).  But on this day we witnessed something new.  Something unique.  We witnessed, ladies and gentlemen, the greatest comic picture book pairing the world has ever seen.  I mean this honestly.

For you see, Mr. Handler had noticed something about Mr. Klassen.  He is a world class straight man.  A good straight man is exceedingly difficult to find.  You need someone who enjoys the spotlight but hasn’t the kind of ego that demands that they grab it away from their partner.  They need to be willing to be made a fool of, but the wit and cunning to turn it all around on their partner by the end.  In short, you need a Jon Klassen.

The entire schtick hinged on the idea that Mr. Handler (who proclaimed repeatedly that he was not Lemony Snicket to the pained cries of the delighted audience members) had zero respect for Mr. Klassen’s work on their book together.  In the course of their talk he disparaged Mr. Klassen’s clothes and talent.  Klassen, for his part, played along beautifully.  They alternated seemingly random slides of varying importance.  It was fairly clear that the slides were a combination of Handler’s old standbys (he’s in an old photograph phase right now that’s doing very well by him) with Klassen’s (in which he shows various important pieces of art from his youth, including a shot of Frog & Toad, and repeats how frightened he was of them when he was a child).

GaimanSnicket e1364950944343 224x300 A Childrens Book Fever Dream: Compounding Awesome Upon AwesomeWhen Mr. Snicket starts to read the book with Mr. Klassen illustrating alongside him, the tension escalates.  Handler denies Mr. Klassen the shiny red apple he’d really like to eat.  He blindfolds him and makes him draw sans eyes.  He brings on Gaiman and claims he’s now going to read the book in his best Neil Gaiman imitation (Klassen makes fun of the “imitation” continually).  And then, when everything is reaching a crescendo . . . Klassen turns everything on its head and Handler runs off screaming.  I won’t give away why.  Bank Street recorded the whole thing and I’ll post it here when I can.

The kids, for the record, ate this thing up like it was a (perhaps nonexistent) pudding pop.  They laughed.  They screamed.  Mostly they screamed.  I’m not entirely certain if Handler and Klassen (and Gaiman for that matter) were ready for the level of identification the kids made with poor Mr. Klassen.  Handler told his blindfolded illustrator that both of them would blindfold themselves and then read and draw without their eyes.  This was, of course, a lie and the kids could not help but scream to Mr. Klassen that Mr. Handler was welching on his half of the deal.  There was an interesting level of desperation to their cries.  Handler’s an old hand in dealing with child panic and outrage, but Klassen dealt with it beautifully as well.  It was very satisfying to watch.  You should have heard les enfants terrible when Handler started eating Jon’s apple.

When the video is up and running I will let you know.  It’ll make your day.  Meantime, a big thank you to the folks at Little, Brown for bringing these heavyweights together and to Bank Street for hosting them.  And thanks, of course, to Allie Jane Bruce for inviting me and allowing me to report on what, without a doubt, was the highlight of the year.  Methinks I’ll go off and relive it a couple times just for kicks.

JennyBrown 500x373 A Childrens Book Fever Dream: Compounding Awesome Upon Awesome

Jenny Brown living the dream with Allie Bruce close by.

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12. Review of the Day: The Dark by Lemony Snicket

Dark1 234x300 Review of the Day: The Dark by Lemony SnicketThe Dark
By Lemony Snicket
Illustrated by Jon Klassen
Little Brown & Co.
$16.99
ISBN: 978-0-316-18748-0
Ages 4-8
On shelves April 2nd

You do not know the temptation I am fighting right now to begin this review with some grandiose statement equating a fear of the dark with a fear of death itself. You have my full permission to slap me upside the head if I start off my children’s books reviews with something that bigheaded. The whole reason I was going to do it at all is that after reading a book like Lemony Snicket’s The Dark I find myself wondering about kids and their fears. Most childhood fears tap into the weird id (see, here I go) part of our brains where the unknown takes on greater and grander evils than could possibly occur in the real world. So we get fears of dogs, the color mauve, certain dead-eyed paintings, fruit, and water going down the drain (or so Mr. Rogers claimed, though I’ve never met a kid that went that route), etc. In the light of those others, a healthy fear of the dark makes perfect sense. The dark is where you cannot see and what you cannot see cannot possibly do you any good. That said, there are surprisingly few picture books out there that tackle this very specific fear. Picture books love to tackle a fear of monsters, but the idea of handling something as ephemeral as a fear of the dark is much much harder. It takes a certain kind of writer and a certain kind of illustrator to grasp this fear by the throat and throttle it good and sound. Behold the pairing of Lemony Snicket and Jon Klassen. You’ll ne’er see the like again (unless they do another picture book together, in which case, scratch that).

“You might be afraid of the dark, but the dark is not afraid of you.” Laszlo is afraid but there’s not much he can do about it. Seems as though the dark is everywhere you look sometimes. Generally speaking it lives in the basement, and every morning Laszlo would open the door and say, “Hi . . . Hi, dark.” He wouldn’t get a reply. Then, one night, the dark does something unprecedented. It comes into Laszlo’s room and though he has a flashlight, it seems to be everywhere. It says it wants to show him something. Something in the basement. Something in the bottom drawer of an old dresser. Something that helps Laszlo just when he needs it. The dark still visits Laszlo now. It just doesn’t bother him.

There is nothing normal about Lemony Snicket. When he writes a picture book he doesn’t go about it the usual route. Past efforts have included The Composer Is Dead which effectively replaced ye olde stand-by Peter and the Wolf in terms of instrument instruction in many a fine school district. Then there was 13 Words which played out like a bit of experimental theater for the picture book set. I say that, but 16 copies of the book are currently checked out of my own library system. Besides, how can you not love a book that contains the following tags on its record: “cake, depression, friendship, haberdashery, happiness”? Take all that under consideration and The Dark is without a doubt the most normal picture book the man has attempted yet. It has, on paper anyway, a purpose: address children’s fear of the dark. In practice, it’s more complicated than that. More complicated and better.

Dark2 300x204 Review of the Day: The Dark by Lemony SnicketSnicket does not address a fear of the absence of light by offering up the usual platitudes. He doesn’t delve into the monsters or other beasties that may lurk in its corners. The dark, in Snicket’s universe, acts almost as an attentive guardian. When we look up at the night sky, it is looking back at us. In Laszlo’s own experience, the dark only seeks to help. We don’t quite understand its motivations. The takeaway, rather, is that it is a benign force. Remove the threat and what you’re left with is something that exists alongside you. Interestingly it almost works on a religious level. I would not be the least bit surprised if Sunday school classes started using it as a religious parable for death. Not its original purpose but on the horizon just the same.

It is also a pleasure to read this book aloud. Mr. Snicket’s words require a bit of rereading to fully appreciate them, but appreciate you will. First off, there’s the fact that our hero’s name is Laszlo. A cursory search of children’s books yields many a Laszlo author or illustrator but nary a Laszloian subject. So that’s nice. Then there’s the repetition you don’t necessarily notice at the time (terms like “creaky roof” “smooth, cold windows”) but that sink in with repeated readings. The voice of the dark is particularly interesting. Snicket writes it in such a way as to allow the reader the choice of purring the words, whispering them, putting a bit of creak into the vocal chords, or hissing them. The parent is granted the choice of making the dark threatening in its initial lures or comforting. Long story short, adults would do well to attempt a couple solo readings on their own before attempting with a kiddo. At least figure out what take you’re going for. It demands no less.

The most Snicketish verbal choice, unfortunately, turns out to be the book’s Achilles heel. You’re reading along, merry as you please, when you come to a page that creates a kind of verbal record scratch to the whole proceeding. Laszlo has approached the dark at last. He is nearing something that may turn out to be very scary. And then, just as he grows near, the next page FILLS . . . . with text. Text that is very nice and very well written and perhaps places childhood fears in context better than anything I’ve seen before. All that. By the same token it stops the reading cold. I imagine there must have been a couple editorial consultations about this page. Someone somewhere along the process of publication would have questioned its necessity. Perhaps there was a sterling defense of it that swayed all parties involved and in it remained. Or maybe everyone at Little, Brown loved it the first time they read it. Not quite sure. What I do know is that if you are reading this book to a large group, you will skip this page. And if you are reading one-on-one to your own sprog? Depends on the sprog, of course. Thoughtful sprogs will be able to take it. They may be few and far between, however. The last thing you want when you are watching a horror film and the hero is reaching for the doorknob of the basement is to have the moment interrupted by a five-minute talk on the roots of fear. It might contain a brilliant thesis. You just don’t want to hear it at this particular moment in time.

Dark3 300x200 Review of the Day: The Dark by Lemony SnicketCanadians have a special relationship to the dark that Americans can’t quite appreciate. I was first alerted to this fact when I read Caroline Woodward’s Singing Away the Dark. That book was about a little girl’s mile long trek through the dark to the stop for her school bus. The book was illustrated by Julie Morstad, whose work reminds me, not a little, of Klassen’s. They share a similar deadpan serenity. If Morstad was an American citizen you can bet she’d get as much attention as Mr. Klassen has acquired in the last few years. In this particular outing, Mr. Klassen works almost in the negative. Much of this book has to be black. Pure black. The kind that has a palpable weight to it. Laszlo and his house fill in the spaces where the dark has yet to penetrate. It was with great pleasure that I watched what the man did with light as well. The colors of a home when lit by a flashlight are different from the colors seen in the slow setting of the evening sun. A toy car that Laszlo abandons in his efforts to escape the dark appears as a dark umber at first, then later pure black in the flashlight’s glow. We only see the early morning light once, and in that case Klassen makes it a lovely cool blue. These are subtle details, but they’re enough to convince the reader that they’re viewing accurate portrayals of each time of day.

The dark is not visually anthropomorphized. It is verbally, of course, with references to it hiding, sitting, or even gazing. One has to sit and shudder for a while when you imagine what this book might have been like with an author that turned the dark into a black blob with facial expressions. It’s not exaggerating to say that such a move would defeat the very purpose of the book itself. The whole reason the book works on a visual level is because Klassen adheres strictly and entirely to the real world. An enterprising soul could take this book, replicate it scene by scene in a live action YouTube video, and not have to dip into the film budget for a single solitary special effect. This is enormously important to children who may actually be afraid of the dark. This book gives a face to a fear that is both nameable and not nameable without giving a literal face to a specific fear. It’s accessible because it is realistic.

When dealing with picture books that seek to exorcise fears, one has to be very careful that you don’t instill a fear where there wasn’t one before. So a child that might never have considered the fact that nighttime can be a scary time might enter into a whole new kind of knowledge with the simple application of this book. That said, those sorts of things are very much on a case-by-case basis. Certainly The Dark will be a boon to some and simply a well-wrought story for others. Pairing Klassen with Snicket feels good when you say it aloud. No surprise then that the result of such a pairing isn’t just good. It’s great. A powerhouse of a comfort book.

On shelves April 2nd.

Source: F&G sent from publisher for review.

Like This? Then Try:

Professional Reviews:

Interviews:

Misc:

  • Read an excerpt here.
  • And yes, the rumors are true.  Neil Gaiman is reading the audiobook.

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13. Wordless Wednesday: Some Favourite Christmas Books












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14. Best Kids Stories – December 2013

Best Selling Kids’ Books & New Releases

By Bianca Schulze, The Children’s Book Review
Published: December 1, 2012

Here’s the scoop on the most popular destinations on The Children’s Book Review and the most coveted new releases and bestsellers.

THE HOT SPOTS: THE TRENDS

20 of the Best Kids Christmas Books

Oliver Jeffers on Writing, Illustrating, and Bookmaking

Christmas Board Books for Babies and Toddlers

How Picture Books Play a Role in a Child’s Development

20 Sites to Improve Your Child’s Literacy


THE NEW RELEASES

The most coveted books that release this month:

Pandora the Curious (Goddess Girls)

By Joan Holub & Suzanne Williams

Ages 8-12

Huggy Kissy

By Leslie Patricelli

Ages 1-3

The Twilight Saga White Collection

By Stephenie Meyer

Ages 14 and up

The 39 Clues: Cahills vs. Vespers Book 5: Trust No One

By Linda Sue Park

Ages 9-12

Deadly Little Lessons

By Laurie Faria Stolarz

Ages 12-17


THE BEST SELLERS

The best selling children’s books this month:

PICTURE BOOKS

This Is Not My Hat

by Jon Klassen

Ages 4-8

Pete the Cat Saves Christmas

By Eric Litwin

Ages 4-8

Llama Llama Time to Share

By Anna Dewdney

Ages 3-5

Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site

By Sherri Duskey Rinker (Author), Tom Lichtenheld (Illustrator)

Ages 4-8

Olivia and the Fairy Princesses

by Ian Falconer

(Ages 3-7)

_______
CHAPTER BOOKS

“Who Could That Be at This Hour?”

By Lemony Snicket

Ages 9-12

LEGO Ninjago: Character Encyclopedia

by DK Publishing

Ages 6-12

Lincoln’s Last Days: The Shocking Assassination that Changed America Forever

by Bill O’Reilly

Ages 10-15

Wonder

by R.J. Palacio

Ages 8-12

Insurgent (Divergent)

by Veronica Roth

Ages 14 and up

_______

PAPERBACK BOOKS

Divergent

by Veronica Roth

Ages 14 and up

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

by Stephen Chbosky

Ages 14 and up

The Book Thief The Book Thief

by Markus Zusak

Ages 14 and up

Thirteen Reasons Why

by Jay Asher

Ages 12 and up

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

by Sherman Alexie

Ages 12 and up

_______

SERIES BOOKS

Hunger Games Trilogy Boxset Hunger Games Trilogy

By Suzanne Collins

Ages 12 and up

Dork Diaries

By Rachel Renee Russell

Ages 9-12

Diary of a Wimpy Kid Box of BooksDiary of a Wimpy Kid

By Jeff Kinney

Ages 9 to 12

The Heroes of Olympus: The Demigod Diaries

by Rick Riordan

(Ages 10-14)

Matched Trilogy

By Ally Condie

Ages 14-17

This information was gathered from the New York Times Best Sellers list, which reflects the sales of books from books sold nationwide, including independent and chain stores. It is correct at the time of publication and presented in random order. Visit: www.nytimes.com.

Original article: Best Kids Stories – December 2013

©2012 The Childrens Book Review. All Rights Reserved.

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15. Video Sunday: “I’ve promised it to Publishers’ Monthly”

See now, this is what I get for waiting when I see a good video.  I’ve been doing my Video Sundays a little less frequently since I like to do them when the content is primo.  The flipside is that sometimes I get scooped.  Such is the case with today’s video.  It is a delight and I have watched it multiple times, but it’s not as new as it once was.  No matter.  You will enjoy it thoroughly, I think.  Thanks to Jon Scieszka and, by extension, Lisa Brown for the link.

Next up, a triple threat.  He writes books like Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities (which I have read and thoroughly enjoyed).  He blogs at Mike Jung’s Little Bloggy Wog.  But the kicker?  He sings.  And goldurnit . . . he’s good.

Brother Iz step aside.  I may have to rework my children’s book boy band roster around to include him.  Dude has pipes.

Speaking of music, I am of the opinion that a catchy score can make or break a book trailer.  Example A: As the Crow Flies by Sheila Keenan and Kevin Duggan.  Catchy as all get out.

And where would this little trailer for the oh-so Canadian Little Jack Horner LIVE from the Corner be without its catchy tunes?  Only author Helaine Becker and illustrator Mike Boldt know for sure.

In other news, J.K. Rowling was in town.  Care to watch her chatter?  Here’s the uncut interview with Jon Stewart in all it Daily Showy glory.

Finally, our off-topic video comes to us from good man Mike Lewis.  As he says, it’s the reactions that make this one a classic.

Love it!

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16. Review of the Day – All the Wrong Questions: “Who Could That Be at This Hour?” by Lemony Snicket

All the Wrong Questions: “Who Could That Be at This Hour?”
By Lemony Snicket
Illustrated by Seth
Little, Brown and Company
$15.99
ISBN: 978-0-316-12308-2
Ages 9-12
On shelves October 24th

Last year I was running a bookgroup for kids, ages 9-12, when the subject of children’s books adapted into films came up. We talked about the relative success of Harry Potter, the bewildering movie that was City of Ember, and the gorgeous credit sequence for A Series of Unfortunate Events. Then one of the younger members, probably around ten years of age, turned to me and asked in all seriousness, “Do you think they’ll ever make a movie out of The Spiderwick Chronicles?” I was momentarily floored. It’s not often that kids will remind me that their memories of pop culture are limited to their own experiences, but once in a while it happens. This girl couldn’t remember back five years to that very film adaptation. And why should she? She was five then! So when I see a new Lemony Snicket series acting as a kind of companion to the aforementioned A Series of Unfortunate Events I wonder how it will play out. The original series was popular around the time of that Spiderwick movie. Does that mean that the new series will founder, or will it be so successful that it brings renewed interest to the previous, still in print and relatively popular, books? Personally, I haven’t a clue. All I know is that the latest Lemony Snicket series All the Wrong Questions is a work of clever references, skintight writing, and a deep sense of melancholy that mimics nothing else out there on the market for kids today. That’s a good thing.

To be a success in Snicket’s line of work it’s important to know how to ask the right questions. And this is a problem since Snicket finds it difficult doing precisely that. He was supposed to meet his contact in the city. Instead, he finds himself whisked away to the country to a dying town called Stain’d-by-the-Sea. Once a bustling harbor, the town’s water was removed leaving behind a creepy seaweed forest and an ink business that won’t be around much longer. With his incompetent mentor S. Theodora Markson he’s there to solve the mystery of a stolen statue. Never mind that the statue wasn’t stolen, its owners don’t care who has it, and their client isn’t even a real person. When Snicket finds a girl looking for her father and learns the name of the insidious Hangfire things start to get interesting, not to mention dangerous. Can multiple mysteries be solved even if you keep following the wrong paths? Snicket’s about to find out.

What is more dangerous: Evil or stupidity? It’s a trick question since there’s nothing “or” about it. If there’s one lesson to be gleaned from the Snicket universe, it is that while evil is undesirable, stupidity is downright damaging. Many is the Series of Unfortunate Events book that would show clear as crystal that while stupid and ignorant people may not necessarily be evil in and of themselves, they do more to aid in evil than any routine bad guy ever could hope for. In All the Wrong Questions the adults in charge are still inane, but at least the kids have a bit of autonomy from them. Our hero, the young Snicket, is still omnipotent to a certain degree, and only cares to share personal information with the reader when the plot requires that he do so. And because the book is a mystery, he’s almost required to move about at will. He just happens to be moving between stupid people much of the time.

Of course the trouble with having Lemony himself as your protagonist is that the guy is infamous for never giving you good news. If adult Snicket is the kind of guy who warns off readers (in a voice that I’ve always connected to Ben Stein) because of his own sad worldview, reading this series means that we are going to see failure at work. We saw failure at work with the Baudelaires but with them it was always the fault of the universe using them as punching bags more than their own inadequacies. That means that the author’s trick with this book is to keep it from disintegrating into depression even as its hero ultimately screws up (yet seems to be doing the right thing the whole time). How do you pull this dichotomy off? Humor. Thank god for humor. Because like other post-modern children’s mysteries (Mac Barnett’s The Brixton Brothers, most notably) being funny is the key to simultaneously referencing old mystery tropes while commenting on them.

I always had a certain amount of difficulty figuring out how exactly to describe A Series of Unfortunate Events. The term “Gothic” just didn’t quite cut it. PoMo Gothic, maybe. Or Meta-Gothic. Dunno. The All the Wrong Questions series makes it much easier on me. This book is noir. Noiry noir. Noiry noirish noirable noir. As if to confirm this the author drops in names like Dashiell and Mitchum, which like all of Snicket’s jokes will fly over the heads of all the child readers and 82.5% of the adult readers as well (I kept a tally for a while of the references I knew that I myself was not getting, then just sort of stopped after a while). There are dames, or at least the 12-year-old equivalent of dames. There are Girl Fridays. There are mistaken identities and creepy abandoned buildings. There are also butlers who do things, but that’s more of a drawing room murder mystery genre trope, so we’re going to disregard it here.

Let us talk Seth. The man comes to fill the shoes left by Brett Helquist. He’s a clever choice since there is nothing even slightly Helquistian to this comic legend. This is, to the best of my knowledge Seth’s first work for children, though there may well be some obscure Canadian work of juvenilia in his past that I’ve missed. His work on the cover is remarkable in and of itself, but in the book he works primarily in chapter headings and the occasional full-page layout. The author must have relayed to Mr. Seth what images to do sometimes because there is a picture at the beginning and a picture at the end that continue the story above and beyond the written portions. As for the spreads inside, Seth does an admirable job of ever concealing young Snicket’s face. He also lends a funny lightness to the proceedings, not something I would have expected walking into the novel.

There is a passage in the book where Snicket reflects on his life that just kills me. It comes a quarter of the way through the novel and is the clearest indication to the reader that the action in this novel happened a long time ago. It goes on for a while until finally ending with, “Stretched out in front of me was my time as an adult, and then a skeleton, and then nothing except perhaps a few books on a few shelves.” Put another way, this isn’t your average mystery novel for kids. It’s not even your average Lemony Snicket novel. It is what it is, the first part in a new series containing a familiar character that need not be previously known to readers. I have no idea if kids will gravitate towards it, but if you’ve a hankering to recommend a beautifully written if uncommon mystery to kids that ask for that sort of thing (and they do, man, they do) hand this over. Worse case scenario, they don’t like it. Best case scenario it blows their little minds. Blew mine anyway. Good stuff.

On shelves October 24th

Source: Final copy sent from publisher for review.

Like This? Then Try:

Notes on the Cover: Recall if you will Mr. Snicket’s The Beatrice Letters. Was a book, or whatever the heck that was, ever more frustrating and enjoyable all at once? If there are any similarities to that cluster of documents and this book it lies in Seth’s art. I dare say the pictures you’ll see on this jacket may show scenes we are never privy to in the book itself. Note the shadow of the screaming woman. We know what that picture leads to, but we never see it in the book itself. Note now the spine. There’s a gorgeous little call number there that will undoubtedly get covered up by real call numbers in libraries throughout this great nation (oh, irony). For the record it reads, “LS ATWQ ?1” which makes sense when you think about it. But the thing that really made me give a deep sigh of contentment was under the jacket entirely. Look at the actual cover of the book here. Look at the spine and the cover. If I were to take this book and shelve it without its jacket next to my Nero Wolfe titles, and it would fit in like a dream.

Professional Reviews: Kirkus

Misc: Not to disparage the fine work of the Australian and New Zealand publishers of this book, but when you’ve hit gold why keep digging? Put another way, when handed the world’s most beautiful book jacket, why replace it with this?

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17. The Rumpus Creates Letters for Kids Program

Over at The Rumpus, middle-grade author Cecil Castelluci will coordinate the new Letters For Kids program–a subscription service giving readers mail from authors who write for kids.

According to the launch page, participants will receive “two letters a month written by middle-grade authors like Lemony Snicket/Daniel Handler, Adam Rex, Kerry Madden, Natalie Standiford, Susan Patron, Rebecca Stead, Cecil Castelluci, and more.” The service will cost $4.50 per month for U.S. readers, and $9 international readers. The project will expand upon The Rumpus’ Letters in the Mail program for adults.  Check it out:

Some of the letters will be illustrated. Some will be written by hand. It’s hard to say! We’ll copy the letters, fold them, put them in an envelope, put a first class stamp on the envelope, and send the letters to you (or your child) … Six is pretty much the perfect age to start checking your mailbox for actual letters. And if you’ve waited until you were ten, well, you’re four years behind but still, it’s not too late. And if you’re sixteen, that’s OK, there’s still something of the kid left. And if you’re sixty, well… OK. You’re young at heart.

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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18. What happened at ALA Anaheim 2012 - Part deux

So last week I shared a bit about my experience at ALA. Here is the rest of the dirt. This time no pictures of me (possibly), just fawning over famous-er and hugely (brilliantly) talented people (and therefore this post will get lots of hits).

Seriously.

It was like Wonderland (or WondLa- land, but I didn't get to see Tony DiTerlizzi). A famous face at every turn. Fun to say hi, to have a chance conversation, to meet a hero and be inspired. Here are some inspiring moments and inspiring people ...



The charming, enchanting and legendary Ashley Bryan, signing his book 'Word's to My Life's Song'.
If you haven't read it yet, GO get it.

Ashley Bryan: Words to My Life's Song


 And then I got to sign my book for Ashley when he dropped by Charlesbridge Booth! A-MAZ-ING. 
A hug from Mr. Bryan can keep you warm and inspired a long time, let me tell you.


Here is the wonderful David Small. I love David's work .. his loose and yet controlled line work is so awesome. He's signing 'One Cool Friend' by Toni Buzzeo of MAINE. So I had to get a copy ....


LUUURRRRVVV this drawing he did!!!
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19. Lemony Snicket to Return in 4-Book Series

The fictional author Lemony Snicket will return in a four book series from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers called All the Wrong Questions. Graphic novelist Seth will illustrate the “authorized autobiographical account” of Snicket’s childhood.

The series will debut with Who Could That Be at This Hour? in October. The publisher will print one million copies of the first book by the fictional author since A Series of Unfortunate Events sold over 60 million copies. Snicket is the pen name of author Daniel Handler.

Here’s more from the release: “Drawing on events that took place during a period of his youth spent in a fading town, far from anyone he knew or trusted, Snicket chronicles his experiences as an apprentice in an organization nobody knows about. While there, he began to ask a series of questions—wrong questions that should not have been on his mind. Who Could That Be at This Hour? is Snicket’s account of the first wrong question.”

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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20. Lemony Snicket to Return in 4-Book Series

The fictional author Lemony Snicket will return in a four book series from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers called All the Wrong Questions. Graphic novelist Seth will illustrate the “authorized autobiographical account” of Snicket’s childhood.

The series will debut with Who Could That Be at This Hour? in October. The publisher will print one million copies of the first book by the fictional author since A Series of Unfortunate Events sold over 60 million copies. Snicket is the pen name of author Daniel Handler.

Here’s more from the release: “Drawing on events that took place during a period of his youth spent in a fading town, far from anyone he knew or trusted, Snicket chronicles his experiences as an apprentice in an organization nobody knows about. While there, he began to ask a series of questions—wrong questions that should not have been on his mind. Who Could That Be at This Hour? is Snicket’s account of the first wrong question.”

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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21. Amazon Exclusive Interview: Daniel Handler and Maira Kalman

Author Daniel Handler (who sometimes goes by Lemony Snicket) and illustrator Maira Kalman visited Amazon to chat about their new book Why We Broke Up, chosen by editors as one of January's Best Books of the Month. If we gave awards for most delightfully entertaining interviewees, these two would be shoo-ins.

 

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22. An Exclusive Tale From Lemony Snicket for Figment.com


Sometimes you receive a message from the dead. Other times—luckier times—you receive an exclusive poem from famed children's author Lemony Snicket, author of A Series of Unfortunate Events. That's what happened to our friends over at Figment.com

Figment is a community for young readers and writers—it's a place to read, write, and connect with like-minded aspiring authors. They host contests all the time, too—often judged by professional authors or editors. It's a great place to hone your craft—and to look for exclusives like this one!
Visit Figment to see an exclusive poem from Lemony Snicket, shared with Figment by Adele Griffin and Lisa Brown, the author and illustrator of Picture the Dead: a brand-new horror-cum-romance.
Want to get in on the shivery action yourself? Griffin and Brown have launched a Ghost Posts Tumblr where you can share spine-tingling tales of

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23. The Chronicles of Harris Burdick

The Toronto Librarians are on strike. There is no need to panic… Ahhhhhhhh! Failing to reach a labour agreement over the weekend 2,400 librarians went on strike. All 98 library branches across Toronto are close as of Monday. The library is asking borrowers to hold on to all checked out books and materials. No overdue [...]

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24. Seth covers Lemony Snicket for Who Could That Be at This Hour?

lemony snicket 625x945 Seth covers Lemony Snicket for Who Could That Be at This Hour?
Seth’s cover for the first volume of Lemony Snicket’s new series of books has been released, along with Snicket’s warning: “I suggest extreme caution … The distribution of this cover image should be on a need-to-know basis, limited to librarians, booksellers, readers, e-readers, educators, journalists, muck-rakers, bloggers, tweeters, men, women, and children.”

Seth will provide illustrations for the new series, which is titled “All the Wrong Questions” and reportedly deals with a somewhat more autobiographical subject matter set in a fading town.

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25. Top 100 Children’s Novels #48: The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket

#48 The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket (1999)
43 points

Also brought me a huge list of new readers – boys and girls and teachers loved to read them out loud to the class. – Cheryl Phillips

I’m a Snicket girl, loving the play with wit and words in this Series of Unfortunate Events. – Pam Coughlan

Unlike other series no one had any desire to nominate a Snicket title other than this, the first. That helped its rating considerably.  Previously #71 it now leaps up to the 40s.  Not too shabby.  My encounters with the book precede my library degree.  When I lived in Portland, Oregon after college I started reading children’s books out of the blue (yet never dreamed I’d be a children’s librarian, odd as that may sound).  I read the first few Snicket books in Powell’s on a lark and loved them, so after the publication of #4 I went and saw Mr. Snicket speak.  He was wonderful, and the crowd was reasonable if not excessive.  Later, when he would command entire buildings like the Union Square Barnes & Noble, I missed the early days of Snicketmania.  Ah, nostalgic me.

Library Journal described the plot in this manner: “This series chronicles the unfortunate lives of the Baudelaire children: Violet, 14; Klaus, 12; and the infant, Sunny. In Bad Beginning, their parents and possessions perish in a fire, and the orphans must use their talents to survive as their lives move from one disastrous event to another. Surrounded by dim-witted though well-meaning adults, the Baudelaires find themselves in the care of their evil relative, Count Olaf, a disreputable actor whose main concern is getting his hands on the children’s fortune. When Olaf holds Sunny hostage to force Violet to marry him, it takes all of the siblings’ resourcefulness to outwit him. Violet’s inventive genius, Klaus’s forte for research, and Sunny’s gift for biting the bad guys at opportune moments save the day.”

In Funny Business: Conversations with Writers of Comedy (edited by Leonard Marcus) an interview was conducted with Daniel Handler, the face behind the Snicket.  The son of a man who escaped the Holocaust, Handler’s career as a children’s author began when his editor suggested (after reading an adult manuscript) that he write for kids.  The editor was Susan Rich, a woman we will now refer to as “Resident Genius” because I doubt that many editors would have seen the possibilities in Handler’s wordplay.  The ideas?  Not a problem.  “That’s what always happens to me: I have a clear idea for a story right away, and then as I’m writing it I find that it has more twists and corners than I knew.”  He told his editor it would be a thirteen book series.  She told him he’d be lucky if he could publish four.

The charm of the series is well defined by Sandra Howard in the August 25, 2001 edition of Spectator. “As a child I had an invented other child that I used to enjoy pretending to be; she had a permanently wretched time, always cruelly treated, slaving away. I’m sure Lemony Snicket’s constant exhortations to expect only the direst events to occur will have a happily morbid appeal and I found myself impatient to know how the orphans were going to get out of one scrape to be ready for the next. The tales are straightforward, no foe-defying magic, just companionable sharing of a disastrous state of affairs.”

It’s probably not too surprising that the first book Handler bought with his own money was Edward Gorey’s The Blue Aspic.  He was in first or second grade at the time.  His other influences

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