Posts Tagged ‘tweens’

A Series of Unfortunate Events - B1I have heard mixed reviews about the movie version of this story with Jim Carrey. Having not seen it I cannot share any opinions on the film myself. Instead, I decided to read the tale in its original form.
 
The author goes under the name of Lemony Snicket, who supposedly possesses documents about the Baudelaire orphans, using these papers he decided to write their story. This is a nice touch, as it provides a story within a story. However, this is only part of the tale; as the author’s real name is actually Daniel Handler.
 
Snicket/Handler states that, if you are looking for a happy story with a happy ending, don’t read this book. A comment that makes one want to read it all the more. But he is right; this is not a happy tale. Still, there’s a certain amount of charm, and there is a somewhat satisfying ending. Just enough to make the reader want to check out the next book.
 
Story overview:

Violet (fourteen-year-old girl,) Klaus (twelve-year-old boy), and Sunny (infant-girl,) are playing on a beach one day when a man walks up and tells them that their parents just died in a house fire.
 
To add to their good news, they are forced to live with a man named Count Olaf, who is a distant relative (and happens to be an actor.) It becomes obvious that Olaf only wants the children in order to find a way to get at their parent’s fortune. He treats them very poorly, giving them unrealistic chores, terrible sleeping arrangements, and even goes so far as to strike Klaus in the face. Making them call him father, Olaf himself refers to the children as orphans.
 
One day Olaf shows an odd act of kindness, and talks the Baudelaire orphans into taking part of a play called “The Marvelous Marriage.” Klaus finds out that Olaf’s plan is to use a real judge, give guardian consent, and have Violet say “I do.” The play is intended to be a real wedding, which would give Olaf access to the fortune that Violet is too young to access herself. Appalled, both children do what they can to prevent the tragedy while taking care to not let Olaf kill Sunny, who he had taken hostage.
 
My thoughts:

I liked the occasional explanation of words, as they are often provided with a twist. Such as, “… money is an incentive – the word ‘incentive’ here means ‘an offered reward to persuade you to do something you don’t want to do.'” The writing is easy to read, the book not very long, and the personality of the characters is enjoyable to follow.
 
Things to consider:

This book is good for younger children, probably six and older, and for both girls and boys. There are no sexual references, or foul language to speak of, and violence is at a minimum, but the situations may be a little disturbing to some children. Such as Klaus being hit in the face and Sunny being hung out the window in a bird cage. All these things are used to show us how evil the count is.

Opportunities for discussion:

One of the lessons here is that life isn’t always what we want it to be, but we should try and make the best of our situation regardless. Another lesson is that it is an evil act to do ill to others for your own sake, and if someone is being treated unfairly we should do what we can to help them. Finally, one of the themes here is how adults tend to not listen very well to the concerns that children face. If only the adults in this story would have listened, the fate of the Baudelaire orphans could have been avoided. It’s nice to see lessons for parents too, even if they are within a children’s tale.

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The White MountainsWhen I was in elementary school, I can remember coming home from school in anticipation of watching a BBC series called “The Tripods.” If I remember correctly, each episode ran for thirty minutes, and they always left me hanging at the end. The music was superb, the effects outstanding (for the day), and the story was spectacular. I just had to see the next episode to find out what was going to happen next; only to be rudely disappointed when the show suddenly stopped airing.

When I was in the sixth grade, my teacher–who was also a fan of the series–was nice enough to show them to the class. We got through two seasons, and like before, I was left hanging at the end. It wasn’t until many years later–after I created the first Yahoo Group Tripods Fanclub–that I learned the show was canceled before they produced the final season–the third book in the series.

Not only that, but when the first season was put into VHS format, they never released the second season other than what was shown on TV. This made things difficult for a fan who wanted to watch it again. To make a long story short, just this very month there was a release of both seasons on DVD with music from Ken Freeman that would have been used in the final 3rd season. It’s in Region 2, PAL format, which won’t work on US DVD players or televisions, however it will work on your Computer and they hookup nicely to TVs now-a-days.

Story overview:

Thirteen-year-old Will and his cousin, Henry (one month younger than Will) live in a small English village. Will’s other cousin and best friend, Jack Leeper, is “of age” to receive what’s called a “cap”–the boy is raised up into a three-legged alien ship (thus, Tripod) and has a metal cap placed on his head, which is used to control his thoughts. The villagers understand this celebration as a coming of age ceremony. It’s considered a great honor.

Once Jack received his cap, Will became horrified to discover that his friend was no longer what he once was. Being only a year behind “of age” himself, Will happens across a mysterious vagrant who goes by the name of “Ozymandias” (vagrants are supposedly people who had a capping go wrong). He convinces Will to escape to a place where there are “Free Men” living in seclusion at the “White Mountains” (actually the Swiss Alps, literally translated from the French Mont Blanc).

Henry learns of this, but rather than turn Will in, he demands to go along. Even though the two boys never really got along in the past, they go together with a common goal. Sailing to France they meet up with a boy named Beanpole, who becomes the third member of their party. Rummaging through the remains of Paris, hiding from Tripods, getting side tracked at a manor owned by a wealthy French count; they follow through many adventures on their way to the “White Mountains.”

My thoughts:

I had acquired a fondness for these stories ever since I was a kid. The TV show was never completed, but thankfully the books were. The idea of our world in the future, gone downward rather than forward due to aliens enslaving mankind by controlling their thoughts, is one of both intrigue and wonder. The discovery, adventure, and fight for freedom are ones that can spark the imagination of any boy.

Things to consider:

I don’t remember anything questionable in the story, but there are elements that may be a little disturbing to young children. I would say this is a great book for pre-teens (tweens) +, and is mostly targeted toward boys.

Opportunities for discussion:

The main theme in this story is freedom. Let your kids know that there are many people and groups out there that will try and force their opinions on them, sometimes by manipulation and sometimes by force. Tell them to keep their minds sharp and not let anyone else control them. Tell them to never stop questioning, testing, and examining the things in their lives. Share how true freedom is obtained in Christ, and that even though people can live content lives without, deep inside they have become prisoners to the things and ideals of this world. The story also speaks of the struggle to maintain ones own creative faculties.