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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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Tmartoonies's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Congratulations to your parents, Daniel! The inspired you by reading themselves, encouraging you to read, and reading aloud to you. As a school librarian an important part of my job is to show children and parents the joy of reading. In my fall parent workshop, I am going to discuss the importance of reading aloud to children. Then we are going to choose books and read aloud to each other to practice.
By the way, thanks for writing a series of books that kids love. It isn't hard to put a Lemony Snicket into the hands of a child. Good on ya!

Faith Moeller's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

First off, I love the Lemony Snicket books. I honestly believe, both as a teacher and a parent, that reading begins at home. At school, we give them skills and tools and even time to read but, the time that parents give to their children before they ever attend school and during the course of school, is what I feel makes the difference between a child who is a successful reader and one that is not. I would hope that all districts across the nation have reading workshops for the parents! I have learned firsthand that this 'parental education' is what we need more of!

Edutopia's picture
Edutopia Team

Reading books aloud to my children has been a bedtime routine for many years, but as my kids have gotten older I've replaced reading to them with reading with them. Now I spend the same time I used to read to them snuggled up reading my own book, while my son reads his. It's still an important part of our daily routine, and the best part of my day.

jade arrowsmith's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Blah!Blah!Blah!VFD stands for...

Volunteers Fighting Diseases.
Very Fast Delivery.
Violet's Fifteenth Date.
Very Fancy Dollies.
Very Fine Day.
I have read all your books!I want to know if Beatrice is a real person?I want to be in VFD.I really want to know who R (the Duchess of Winnepeg) is?And how you used to have L (Count Olaf) in VFD?And are you going to write book 13th?And is the town of VFD located in Australia?And is Klause born in late summer(i found that out in the Beatrice letters.And would violet be called Lemony Baudelaire?

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

i really like your books.i can hardly put them favorite so far has to be THE SLIPPERY SLOPE.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I remember seeing a story you had written about a man and leaves falling on him. Your teacher was not happy with the story because the man was crushed by the leaves. Where can I find this? I want to use it with my students to encourage them to write, being sensitive to criticism but not frozen by it.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

the most intressting thing with ur writing is that u can leave such many things unexplained. look at your last book it has like nothing to do with the other 12 :P or something. its just brilliant, what i wanna know, is who is the taxi driver at the hotel, and im pretty sure its the sugar bowl inside?

???'s picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I have read 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,and 11. They are really good, but you can't fool me,I know that Beatrice is a fake person, and that you disguised yourself as Lemony Snicket to make the book more myserious, but I have to admit, that you did have me fooled in book 1.

S's picture

Hi Lemony! I know you are real. Because in your book Lemony Snicket's The Unathurized AutoBiographe, which was AWESOME, said that Daniel Handler is your REPERSENTITVE not you! I'm you # 1 fan!!I can't stop reading about you! Even well EVERYONE knows!! Book 6 was really sad..... I cried because Jerome left them, and I personally liked Jerome he was nice, he was vey nice. I have your whole series in one ( the box it originally comes in). I usually can't stop thinking about you! Well best regards and be safe you sercrets are safe with me!
With all do respect,

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