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*The Austere Academy (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 5)* by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist - tweens/young readers book review

Also by Lemony Snicket:

The Penultimate Peril (Book 12)

The Vile Village (Book 7)

The Ersatz Elevator (Book 6)

The Miserable Mill (Book 4)

The Wide Window (Book 3)

The Reptile Room (Book 2)

The Bad Beginning (Book 1)

Also by illustrated by Brett Helquist:

The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic

The Austere Academy (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 5)
by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist
Ages 9-12 208 pages HarperCollins April 2000 Hardcover    

At first consideration, Prufrock Preparatory School seems like the perfect place for the orphaned Baudelaire children to alight after their disastrous stint at The Miserable Mill. They are bright, inquisitive siblings for whom school should be a welcome haven. Of course, Prufrock Prep turns out to be anything but.

From its motto ("Memento Mori - Remember You Will Die") to the mocking, musically un-gifted violinist cum Vice Principal Nero, from the architecture evocative of headstones to the nasty bully Carmelita Spats, from the crustacean-and-fungus-infested Orphans Shack to the crushingly uneducational classes (including pointless but endless short stories told by Violet's teacher, and pointless but endless measuring by Klaus' instructor), Prufrock turns out to be the exact opposite of a welcome haven. Even Baby Sunny doesn't escape the drudgery; Nero makes her his executive assistant, even forcing her to make her own staples.

There shelter from the storm of their existence at Prufrock is their budding friendship with the Quagmire triplets, Duncan and Isadora (brother Quigley died some time ago). The Quagmires are orphans, too, and more unexpectedly due to come into a fortune when they come of age. The villainous Count Olaf appears once more in disguise (this time as an unrelenting gym teacher in a turban), ratcheting up the level of displeasure to real danger and forcing the Baudelaires to come up with something - and quick - to escape his clutches once more.

Of note in this fifth volume of "A Series of Unfortunate Events" is mysterious narrator Lemony Snicket's giving enticing glimpses into his own unfortunate existence ("For Beatrice - You will always be in my heart, in my mind, and in your grave," reads the dedication), adding to the depth of the morbidly delightful Baudelaire saga. It's at this point in the series that readers come to a rather satisfying conclusion: Lemony Snicket's slowly unfolding account is pleasantly addictive.

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  Sharon Schulz-Elsing/2006 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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