Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Beatrice Letters by Lemony Snicket published 2006

The Beatrice Letters
A Series of Unfortunate Events (companion)
By Lemony Snicket
Illustrated by Brett Helquist
Published by HarperCollins 2006

The Beatrice Letters was published just one month before the final book in the Series of Unfortunate Events, written by Lemony Snicket and featuring the tales of the Beaudelaire orphans. The series was a hilarious romp through the adventures of these three children with plays on words, anagrams and subtle references to many works of literature. Lemony Snicket (a.k.a. Daniel Handler) had a flair for humor and his adolescent fiction series provided some fun reading that even the adults could enjoy.

This companion to the series is a bit confusing at first but fun nonetheless. It's confusing because we never really know who Beatrice is. In the Books Beatrice is the mother of the orphans, Violet, Klaus and Sunny, and she dies in the fire that begins the troubles, and leaves the children orphaned. In The Beatrice Letters, Beatrice seems to be 2 people, the mother and a sibling to the 3 orphans. The letters at first seem as though they are correspondence between Lemony Snicket and Beatrice, but as the reading progresses it seems the Lemony Snicket letters are written 10 years before the Beatrice letters, yet they flow. Very fun to read, but I warn you if you need clues to the secrets of the Baudelaire orphans you either have to dig really deep into this book or they don't exist.

The packaging of the book is also clever, it includes a mysterious poster, and a portfolio in which the book fits. The book also contains twelve punch-out letters (of the alphabet, as opposed to correspondence, although the ambiguity is intentional), and each is mentioned in different, interesting ways. An example is that the first letter is an E, juxtaposed against a card from Snicket to Beatrice, in which a map Snicket had drawn forms an E. The cardstock letters appear to be an anagram of 'Beatrice Sank'.

The book is a very short read with only 13 letters in total, but quite fun to puzzle over. Normally, when I review a book that is a part of a series, I will tell you whether or not the book can be read independently of the series or if you need to start with book one. With this one, ummmm I don't know...maybe, maybe not, but, I will tell you this, A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket is an awesome series and very fun to read, so read the 13 books in the series anyway.

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