Whoa Mama

Monday, October 22, 2012

Reading is one form of escape. Running for your life is another.

About a year ago we picked up the first in the Series of Unfortunate Events on audiobook. The first book begins with Violet, Klaus and Sunny Beaudelaire playing on a beach when they are approached by someone they do not know who tells them that their parents were killed in a fire that burned down their house. They children are ushered away by Mr. Poe and set on this awful course shuttled from one substandard caregiver to another, beginning with Count Olaf.

After hearing the first chapter, I ran to the library website and amazon to read as many reviews as possible to make certain that I didn't accidentally introduce my children to Steven King, Jr. It really was purported to be series for children. So we continued. 

The book is loaded with little zingers like "the phrase 'greatest myths' is just a fancy way of saying 'big fat lies'" and  "Children are strange and foreign to me. I never really was one. I do know that they are an important part of the ecosystem."

We finished the first book and moved on with our normal music in the car, until Sammy announced that he had been reading the next books in the series from his classroom library. "Sammy, does this get any better for them?" "Mommy, it is called the Series of Unfortunate Events. Don't be sad but stuff keeps happening."

We then had to seek out the next in the series, The Reptile Room, where the children where sent to live with vague relative, Dr. Monty Montgomery.  He welcomed the children and assured them of their safety and well-being saying, "Count Olaf sounds like an awful person. I hope he is torn apart by wild animals someday. Wouldn't that be satisfying?” 

That sent me! I snapped off the radio and said, "do you you really like this?!?!"  Unanimously, they howled, "YEEEESSSSS! WILL YOU PLEASE TURN IT BACK ON?!?!" So I did and we have continued to  marched through this series, treated to dark and funny passages that include, "If an optimist had his left arm chewed off by an alligator, he might say in a pleasant and hopeful voice, "Well this isn't to bad, I don't have a left arm anymore but at least nobody will ever ask me if I'm left-handed or right-handed" but most of us would say something more along the lines of "Aaaaaa! My arm! My arm,!"

One of my recent favorites was, "a good conversation starter might be ‘Madame diLustro, I believe I’ve discovered your true identity!'" I am now campaigning for the boys to call me Madame diLustro, so that someday someone can say to me, ‘Madame diLustro, I believe I’ve discovered your true identity!'

Gradually, our dialogue has changed over the course of these books so that we now have words that are loaded and a funny, private dialogue born of this extended shared experience. For example, the storyline develops to include a mystery surrounding a secret sugar bowl. While getting a cup of coffee at the drive-thru, I was asked if I wanted cream or sugar. From back in the cheap seats, a little voice hissed, "Mommy, shhhh-uuu-gar! Maybe it's the bowl". Their common vernacular now includes references to items with ersatz qualities and Hobson's choices. We now joke the ridiculous spin the hopeless optimistic might put on different situations.

As we wind through the 12th book and have only one left in the series, I am tempted to restart them as I will really miss these little characters when they are gone. Short of that, I hope that we can agree on another series that is age appropriate and we can all enjoy. While I will miss the little Beaudelaires and I hope that this ends ok so I don't have to worry about them, I treasure what their dreadful, over-the-top struggles have given to us. I like to think that sharing audio books will continue to be a habit as long as they will tolerate it. 

“ [our parents] didn't want to shelter us from the world's treacheries. They wanted us to survive them.” 
-Lemony Snicket


At 12:18 PM , Blogger jules said...

Lemony Snicket is publishing a prequel series to A Series of Unfortunate Events, called All the Wrong Questions. The first book in the series is called Who Could That Be at This Hour? It was released today, 10/23.


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