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*The Reptile Room (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 2)* 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 Austere Academy (Book 5)

The Miserable Mill (Book 4)

The Wide Window (Book 3)

A Bad Beginning (Book 1)

Also by illustrated by Brett Helquist:

The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic
The Reptile Room (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 2)
by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist
Ages 9-12 208 pages HarperCollins September 1999 Hardcover    

It looks like the Baudelaire orphans' stretch of bad luck might be coming to an end. After an extremely unpleasant period spent as wards of their distant, creepy, scheming "uncle" Count Olaf, they find themselves placed with Dr. Montgomery Montgomery - their late father's cousin's wife's brother and a renowned expert on snakes.

Making a new home with a scientist whose enormous stone house boasts a reptile room full of deadly (and, plot point, some ironically named, not-very-deadly) snakes seems foreboding on the surface. But, to the children's delight, they discover "Uncle Monty" to be an earnest and kind, if somewhat distracted, guardian.

Monty's previously planned expedition to Peru begins in a mere ten days, and the children are not only going to be allowed to go along. They actually get to assist in the planning, a challenge the exceedingly bright Violet and Klaus are excited to tackle. The only snag is that Monty's assistant left an abrupt letter of resignation only the day before; replacing him is imperative. Monty has hired a man named Stephano, who will arrive just a few days before their trip is to commence.

It is an idyllic week for the orphans. They each have their own room, and Uncle Monty plies them with delicious home-cooked meals. Violet is charged with preparing, repairing and improving the snake traps for the expedition, while Klaus reads volumes on Peruvian geography to map their trek. Sunny, consigned to biting long lengths of rope into shorter usable pieces, befriends the Incredibly Deadly Viper, Monty's latest discovery and one named as a joke on the other members of the Herpetological Society - it is completely harmless.

Then Stephano arrives. Violet, Klaus and Sunny know almost immediately that, despite shaved eyebrows and a new beard, Stephano is really Count Olaf. And, as always, convincing trustworthy adults of their peril is next to impossible. When Uncle Monty falls victim to Count Olaf's wickedness, it seems that nothing stands between the Baudelaires and their end.

As clever, sly and delightful as A Bad Beginning, this second book in A Series of Unfortunate Events proves Lemony Snicket's growing prominence in a field of smart-orphan books. Minus the magic and quicker to read than the Harry Potter books, the Series is perfect for voracious young readers.

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

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