The Wide Window


Ethan has accepted my challenge, and the race is on to find the best freaking book out there. My first candidate is Lemony Snicket’s The Wide Window, the third book in his Series of Unfortunate Events. 

Now, some of you snobby snobs out there might say something along the lines of, “But Rachel – you’re decidedly older than 16, and these books are written for children!” And you’d be right. I am decidedly older than most children (biologically, at least). Which is why this book only took me a few hours to burn through. But you would be a deluded fool to tell me that this book was a waste of my time.

Lemony Snicket is probably one of my favorite authors – not because he has the most profound insights, or because his plot lines are so creative, or because the language paints a picture of a beautiful European landscape and you feel like you’re just wandering through pastoral France while you’re reading. Because, frankly, these aren’t his department. His department is telling good (though sad) stories in the most entertaining possible way. And, while he’s at it – I couldn’t help but notice that he teaches a lot about the English language while he’s at it. He uses a pretty basic vocabulary to tell his story, but at least once every two paragraphs, he introduces a new word and then defines it in the most hilarious possible way. And then he uses that word at least four or five times throughout the rest of the book. If you want your kids to learn about American Romanticism, convince them to wade through a few hundred pages of Moby-Dick. But if you want your kids to learn to love reading on their own – and improve their vocabulary and reading skills on the way – give them Lemony Snicket. Add two tablespoons of sugar, a pinch of salt, some cinnamon, and stir vigorously. Serve while warm.

Here are just a few of the things I learned while reading The Wide Window:

  • The word “garish” can be used to mean “filled with balloons, neon lights, and obnoxious waiters.”
  • Responsible, adult behavior is far more important than proper grammar.
  • Building a house precariously over the top of a leech-infested lake is probably a bad idea.
  • It is highly unlikely (though not impossible) that touching a doorknob will cause it to shatter into a thousand pieces.
  • Count Olaf is not a nice man.
  • “Karg tem!” is baby talk for “I’m going to move the tiller this way, in order to steer the boat according to Klaus’s recommendation.”
  • The moral of World War One is: Never assassinate Archduke Ferdinand.

Well, there you have it. There’s much more I could cite – and Ethan had to put up with quite a few outbursts and some hysterical laughter while I was reading – but I don’t want to spoil the book for anybody. Just know that if you haven’t read A Series of Unfortunate Events, you should start now. ♥



One thought on “The Wide Window

  1. Barbara Tuchmann won multiple Pulitzer Prizes for her books on WWI and reached a similar concluusion:

    Never assassinate Archduke Ferdinand.

    I’m in for the challenge, and need to find some good book in the Juvi section!


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