Monday, November 22, 2010

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday--A Series of Unfortunate Events (and a Giveaway!!!)

Sorry for missing Marvelous MiddleGrade Monday for the past few weeks--things have been a little hectic over here with the Partial Critique giveaway and the WriteOnCon live event. But, things are finally settling back to normal and I thought I'd make it up to you guys by giving away not one, not two, but THREE awesome middle-grade books today--but we'll get to the giveaway in a minute.

*trusts everyone to not just scroll down and skip my ramblings*

I created Marvelous Middle Grade Monday because I wanted to give middle-grade a tiny piece of the online platform it deserves--since so much of it gets overlooked in the Blogosphere. And because of that, I usually I try to focus on books or series you might not have heard of yet. But today I wanted to do something different.

Today's series is one you've probably heard of. Shoot, Jim Carey and Meryl Streep were in the film adaption. But I'm featuring it because I think it's an absolutely fabulous example of middle grade books not being just for kids. And so, I give you: A Series of Unfortunate Events, by Lemony Snicket:

When I first started reading middle grade as research (something I think everyone should do before they attempt to write middle grade) I decided to start with the BIG series--figuring they were obviously doing something right. So naturally I checked out this collection--it's an international bestseller (what must THAT be like?)--and I was instantly intrigued by several things.

-The books get thicker as the series progresses (we all know I'm a fan of longer middle grade).

-Even the titles use big, complicated words I never would have thought could/would be used in middle grade (THE PENULTIMATE PERIL, for instance)

-The books are written by an imaginary character named Lemony Snicket, who is as much a part of the books as the Baudelaire Orphans.

-The books immediately tell you not to read them, which only makes you want to read them more.

And then, when I really dove into the series I was blown away by how sophisticated the writing was. How the tone of the narration could be droll and depressing AND funny all at the same time. How things never went right for the Baudelaires, but I never got frustrated (and I'm a happy ending kind of girl). How half the time what went on in the books felt more like a complicated metaphor than the simple plot it was disguised as. And how I couldn't put them down. I worked through the whole series in about two weeks. 

In Friday's Q & A session, someone had asked me if it's hard to write middle grade and keep the language and plot age appropriate, and I had responded by saying that middle grade books are far more sophisticated than we think. These books are PERFECT examples of that. They're also some of the first books I recommend to adults who tell me middle grade books are too young for them. And everyone who's read them at my recommendation has had to agree with me. They. are. awesome--and unlike most anything else out there. 

So I highly recommend you give them a chance. And to help you with that, I'm giving away the first three (in their fancy paperback form, which has some extra stuff you don't get with the hard covers):

Sadly, they're not signed (he's one of the authors I haven't been able to stalk meet--I found out about the last signing he did the day AFTER happened. I'm still not over it *sobs*) but they are three very awesome books with very awesome features and, well, they're free. Can't go wrong with that. :)

If you'd like a chance to win, make sure you're a follower of my blog and leave a comment on this post by 11:59 PST on Saturday, November 27th. I'll choose one random winner and announce them on Sunday, November 28th. International entries welcome.

And since this is the first Marvelous Middle Grade Monday in a bit, I'd love to continue the discussion. So feel free to rave about a middle grade book you love in the comments.  Maybe it'll end up as my next MMGM feature. :)

Update: For another fabulous middle grade recommendation, check out the lovely Shannon O'Donnell's blog today, with a  Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday feature on DRAGONSPELL!

And if you've done a MMGM feature and want me to cross-link you, drop me an email and I'll happily add you. Yay for MG love!!!!

Good luck everyone!


  1. Ooh! I've never read the books, but I have seen the movie. It was pretty amazing so I can imagine the books are even more spectacular!

    I must admit I've never read too much MG. Even when I was little, I almost skipped it right over. My only MG experience began and ended with Goosebumps.

  2. Oh I've never heard of the book AND the movie! Gotta check them out soon.

  3. I loved reading the first book on tape on a family driving trip. Even my husband who reads ,no fiction enjoyed it. We already have the books, so don't enter me.

    Have you read The Shifter and the sequel Blue Fire by Janice Hardy? Those are both MG fantasies. I'm in the beginning of Blue Fire. They're great.

  4. Maybe these books would get my son interested in reading! (Yes, I would love to read them myself, too.)

  5. Thanks for the feature and the contest! It looks so great. :)

    cc932005 at hotmail dot com

  6. This is an awesome contest! I think the paperback design is truly amazing. I've started this series but not finished it yet.

    jlelliott08 AT gmail DOT com

  7. +JMJ+

    People think writing MG novels is easy because "kids can read them"--but I've made some attempts at MG writing (all amateur!) and know that it is freaking hard! It's easier to write something that will please a snooty English professor from Oxford than to write a story that will satisfy your average kid.

    I used to think of MG as indistinguishable from YA, but now that I've started seeing it as a separate genre, I appreciate it so much more! Well, it was always more fun, more adventurous, and yes, more sophisticated (as strange as this might sound to the uninitiated) than YA, wasn't it? I'm still quite impressed at how well Beverly Cleary's books have stood up over the years. They're more simple than today's fare, yes, and seem retro despite new editions with "updated" illustrations; but hey, she was a pioneer wasn't she? Henry Huggins was the Tom Sawyer of the twentieth century! =D

    Right now I have Lydia Joyce: Psychic Investigator on my TBR pile. I was drawn to the great cover and the original concept. Have you read it, Shannon? If so, what do you think of it?

    Anyway, I hope you don't mind the super wordy comment (I love the sound of my own virtual voice, apparently!). Please enter me for this giveaway! I'm an international entrant and my e-mail address is:

    altaemoeniaRomae [at] Gmail [etc]

  8. Don't enter me in this one Shannon, because even though I love these books we already own the box set. I've been winning so much other stuff lately it wouldn't feel fair to try to win something I already have ...

    unless ... these paperbacks are different aren't they? Okay, throw my name in too.

  9. I've never read the books but I loved the film!!!!! So maybe I should read the books too seeing how fab they are!! Thanks for the info and a perfect example of how sophisticated writing MG is!!! Take care

  10. I had a student who LOVED this series and I used to tease her about it. "How could you like something where such awful things happen to the main characters?"
    She said, "I like it because it's not like every other book out there. And it's funny."
    Me, smiling and pretending to be shocked, "You think its funny when terrible things happen to people? What kind of human being are you? Did you laugh when a kitten dies too?"
    This would send her into giggle fits.
    "Oh NOW you're laughing at dead kittens! You're a monster."
    Belly Laughs from her.

    Ahhh good times.

  11. I loved the first movie and I can't wait to read the books, so please count me in!


  12. I love middle grade books like this. I think even if kids come across words they don't recognize, they should be able to figure them out in context, or if the story is good enough, it'll make it worth looking up the words. Books like this encourage kids to read and to learn, even if they don't realize that's what's happening. It's so good of you to spotlight them!

  13. I've never seen the movie or read the books. Sounds like a fun read!


  14. Shannon, what a great post! I LOVE MG--my 7-year-old and I are currently reading our way through Lemony's series (on Bk 10 right now.) He is fascinated by the goings on and I chuckle at all the language play and intertextual stuff. In my book, Daniel Handler is a genius!

    I haven't seen these paperback editions. My son would freak if we won! (We are using the public library for our reading pleasure.)

    Once again, good job. I'm loving your blog.


  15. hi miss shannon! HOORAY for MG!!!
    im loving your monday mg posts cause im pretty sure youre doing them just for me! :) ha ha. for sure i could want to read these books. now youre making my biwr (books i wanna read) list lots longer. how cool is that!
    ...hugs from lenny

  16. Haven't read the books or seen the movie so I would love to win!

  17. It's your turn to throw stuff at me, #1. Can you believe I haven't read these yet? I know, I know! Your review makes me feel guilty. I guess I'd better read them now, huh?!

    I'll make you a deal... I'll read Lemony Snicket if you'll read The Maze Runner! :-)

  18. I remember that my son pulled one of these off the shelf as I was grocery shopping (many years ago). He sat in the cart and read it as I shopped. I ended up having to buy it because he was on Chapter 3 by the time I reached the checkout. :) Sadly, I couldn't get him to read any of the others. They sound great and I really should read them.
    Lisa ~ YA Literature Lover

  19. Awesome give away! I have been meaning to buy these books. I don't think I read past 5(other books were pushed my way and I swore I'd get back to them...) But I remember being really surprised by the intellect level of them as well. It's kind of sad the feel shocked about that. I hope kids get the smart funny about them. I want to read these to my own children one day and I'm counting on them to be smart enough to get it!

  20. Great giveaway! I've been wanting to check out this series, but have just never found the time to check them out from the library and read them. Love the covers for the paperbacks. ^_^

    GFC follower

    hauntingorchid (at) aol (dot) com

  21. Oooooh, I read these! Loved them (was a bit frustrated by the ending, but, really, what was I expecting?) :) I enjoyed Snicket's narration and subtlety - I remember one scene where Violet and...that guy (name I can't remember) end up together and the narrator leaves to "give them their privacy." I liked that. It wasn't going to go into any romance, but older readers knew exactly what was going on. :)

  22. A friend recommended these earlier this month. I think it's so cool that there is a giveaway. ENTER ME, PLEASE!!!!!!!

  23. I am constantly in awe of people who write MG - I can't imagine getting all the factors right!

    I've heard of Lemony Snicket but I've not read any of the books. They look really intriguing!

  24. I haven't read all the Lemony Snicket books - perhaps I'll pick another one up some time. It's a fun series though.

  25. These are books that I have wanted to read for a very long time, only I got caught up in reading my own genre (YA) and never got around to it. I am putting them on my Wishlist right now!

  26. Oh my god, the box is gorgeous!! I really liked the movie, would love to read the book :) So thank you for the giveaway and making it international :)

  27. Yay for fabulous MG reads! I adore Lemony Snicket in all his campy high-brow pseudo goth-i-ness (a word which here means a tendency to wear buttoned up clothing without being too dreary). We even got our books signed at a reading where Mr. Snicket played the Mandolin! Awesome.

    But extra features in the paperback?? *must haves .... *

  28. I have only watched the movie and loved it, but the books have to be ten times better. I am a old follower.

  29. I'm a follower! Thanks for this giveaway!

    missie at

  30. My fave MG book is THE CAY by Theodore Taylor. I'd like to do a MMGM feature one day. I'll let you know.

    I'm a follower.

    ellestraussbooks at gmail dot com

  31. I haven't been fortunate enough to read the series yet. I know about them, but haven't read them. How sweet of a prize that is.

  32. Old follower....

    I read The Kneebone Boy and it really reminded me of the Series of Unfortunate Events. Kneebone Boy was one was trying to kill them.

    Thx for the giveaway!



  33. Lemony Snicket does book signings? Awesome! I hope they're humorously tragic.

  34. I'd love to read this series! I knew a few people that read them and really liked them (a lot of those people were my age!). I never even watched the movie for the books.

    Mr. Snicket does signings? I thought he was too mysterious to come out in public! xD

    I haven't read too many MGs but one of the best MG series I read was Cornelia Funke's Inkheart books. Those are exquisite<3

  35. I'd love to play please :D

    Old follower of your blog.


  36. Awesome giveaway, count me in. Great to see MG recommendations too, I need to get reading some.

    I love Toad Rage by Morris Gleitzman and Zorgamazoo by Robert Paul Weston

  37. Yay for MG! I already own the first six Lemony Snicket books, so don't enter me. But they're funny and sophisticated, I agree.

    I love MG. So many titles -- how can you make me limit myself to just one? (*groans*)

    OK, OK, I'll go with a new one: MOON OVER MANIFEST by Clare Vanderpool. Most impressive.

  38. Woo-Hoo for Middle Grade!

    I borrowed the first of these from the library and really enjoyed it, so enter me for sure - and yes, MG can be very sophisticated, can't it? I love that about it.

    Favorite MG books... Kenneth Oppel's SILVERWING is really good, as is SKELLIG by David Almond. And if you like Lemony Snicket, you should give Robert Paul Weston's ZORGAMAZOO a read (if you haven't already). And of course everything by Roald Dahl, but everyone's heard of him. And I like Natale Ghent's THE ODDS GET EVEN, too.

    I like me some Middle Grade. Thanks for the giveaway, by the way.

  39. What an awesome giveaway! I have 3 kids and they're at or approaching MG level so this would make a great addition to our library!

    I'm an old follower

    autumn.crochet (at) gmail. com

  40. I've read the whole series of books and found them hard to put down. We have all but the last one. I had to borrow that one from the library. Still want to get my own copy of the last book. I'll definitely read the series again.

  41. I've seen the movie - not sure how closely they follow the books, but since the books are usually better, I'm sure these are fabulous! Would love to read them - so please enter me! Thanks for the opportunity - :)

  42. For those who have only seen the movie, know that they took a lot of liberties. Having already been reading the books, I was actually a bit let down by the movie, though it was still fairly good. Read the entire series back when I was in middle school.

    I can remember really enjoying this series so I would like to own the books. Count me in! :D


  43. People are always worried about the level of complication you can use in MG and in YA.

    Frankly, in my mind the difference is content -which I think everyone knows- and pace. Adults don't seem to mind, an author rambling on in the driest of manners, but in MG and YA, readers need things to keep moving, and stay exciting.

  44. Oooh! I want to win these books! I read a few of them, and LOVED them. Now my nine-year-old is into them.

    A MG book I would recommend reading is Toes, from Tor Seidler. It's the story of a kitten born with seven toes on each paw. :) We start in the kids' POV when they see the kitten for the first time, and then it shifts to the kitten's POV for the rest of the book. Very cleverly written.

  45. Gregor the Overlander series are excellent. They're Suzanne Collins first series before Hunger Games. And Artemis Fowl, of course. Oh yeah, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, How To Train Your Dragon, and Percy Jackson, obviously. There's just so many favorites!

  46. I'm glad your MG feature is back! This is an awesome giveaway! I haven't read any of these books yet. I know, crazy! (I've seen the movie though.) I heard that Lemony Snicket is coming out with a new series in the near future. So I better get on reading Unfortunate Events!

    Have a happy Thanksgiving, Shannon!!! Many blessings to you and your family! :)

  47. MMGM, you have come back to me, huzzah! I hate it when we're apart!

    I'd love to read these -- I got Lemony Snickett's pep talk email from NaNoWriMo the other day and laughed and laughed. I'd also love such a great example of complex vocabulary used for kids.

  48. These books have been on my TBR pile for YEARS!!! I've been meaning to read them but never got around to it. This might just be the incentive that I need. (I'm a follower).

    spettolij AT gmail DOT com

  49. I've heard about this series before and I've seen the movie but I've never gotten around to reading it :P I'd love to win!

    Thanks for sharing!


Yay-I love comments! Thank you so much! (But please remember to keep your comments spoiler-free. Also, I try to keep this a happy, positive place. Friendly debate is fine, but always be kind to each other). <3