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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Learning Curves: Daniel Handler

The seed for Lemony Snicket was planted at a young age.
By Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket)
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Daniel Handler, under the pseudonym Lemony Snicket, wrote the popular book series A Series of Unfortunate Events. He has also written novels under his own name and has been involved in film production and musical projects.

Slices of Lemony and more:

  • Video: Vile videos on Lemony Snicket's own Web site!
  • Video: Interview (Radio KOL)
  • Video: High school graduation speech
  • Video: Reading from The End
  • Audio: Interview (partially by children!) on Morning Edition (NPR)
  • Audio: Interview on the blog The Bat Segundo Show

I came from a household in which we all read a lot. But I think no one was prepared for how obsessive a reader I would become even as a small child. I wanted to write fiction for a living beginning at about six years old. My parents were unprepared for this, really. But I loved reading and was particularly inspired by a first-grade teacher who suggested some books to read in my own time -- books that turned out to be really important to me in nurturing this love of reading. They included works by Roald Dahl, Beverly Cleary, and Zilpha Keatley Snyder.

One way my parents continued to get me really excited was reading aloud to me. A lot of books are just inherently fascinating on the printed page, but if you start to read them out loud, they became even more interesting. So, for many years when I was a child, at night my parents would read books to me. But then -- and here's the twist -- they'd stop at a really suspenseful part and say, "Well, now it's time for bed." I'd whine, I'd plead, but they wouldn't give in. They would put the book on the nightstand, place a flashlight on top of it, and say, "Remember, there is no reading after the lights go out."

What could I do? They would close the door and go downstairs, and I would click on the light and keep on reading. The next day, the bookmark would be in an entirely different place, and my parents would pick up from there as if nothing had happened, and stop at the next suspenseful moment. There was always a notion that this kind of nocturnal reading was forbidden, but there was also the notion that they were giving me the tools I needed to keep on going.

This got me into the mystery of books, particularly that addictive, slightly conspiratorial feel you get with a good book. I think kids and adults can relate to the Lemony Snicket books because people of every age relate to being trapped in circumstances and surrounded by a shadowy web of conspiracy in a world gone mad. It's not really that unusual a story. But I hope they really like the suspense of the books, because that's what great books did to me when I was a kid. They got me hooked on suspense, which can be very hypnotic and addictive.

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