13 Words, by Lemony Snicket and Maira Kalman

I’m not going to pretend that I get Lemony Snicket.

I was just listening to an interview with him on NPR and he is, indeed, a weird dude. But also really, really compelling. And Maira Kalman, the illustrator of this book? Also really peculiar and yet fascinating. I have a few of her books (both children’s and adult’s) and they’re all the kind of books where you turn the page and just kind of shake your head because…what? I adore her.

13 Words by Lemony Snicket, from ameliesbookshelf.comThe book 13 Words is really just a vocabulary list of some basic and some…ah…eccentric words that Snicket linked together. In order, the words are: Bird, Despondent, Cake, Dog, Busy, Convertible, Goat, Hat, Haberdashery, Scarlet, Baby, Panache, Mezzo-Soprano. All of those words, by the end, are combined into this odd, jagged, purely enjoyable story.
13 Words, by Lemony Snicket, from ameliesbookshelf.com   IMG_4140   IMG_4141
This is one of those collaborations where both author and illustrator come from left field, both with such a strong aesthetic, and together they create this amazing dynamic. Kalman, this impossibly cool artist, has created these bright, colorful, very, very odd illustrations, and I kind of want to frame them.

IMG_4142In the Fresh Air interview with Snicket on NPR, he bemoaned the fact that children aren’t exposed to a wider vocabulary, and that unlike adults, they lack the embarrassment if they don’t know a word and are more likely to ask or look it up, therefore, you know, learning. I dig that idea. I’m constantly floored by what my kids pick up when given the opportunity.

I also like it when a children’s book takes a rather dark turn. Our hero in this story is a bird that is despondent, and remains so throughout. Our lives are not always rainbows and unicorns, it’s important to see those emotions represented as well (see Elliott).

I haven’t gotten to the Series of Unfortunate Events yet (we’re still plowing through the Magic Treehouse books, my son’s not quite six). Have you?

17 thoughts on “13 Words, by Lemony Snicket and Maira Kalman

  1. My daughter’s 7 and we are reading the Unfortunate Events books. I read the first two years ago. As I read them again to a child I realized that they are a super good, sugary treat. But I find that the style often gets in the way of really enjoying them. But it’s a really great snack.


  2. This sounds interesting. I agree with you that it’s important for children’s books to address a range of emotions and behaviors. We haven’t read any Lemony Snicket books yet (my twins turn six next month).


  3. We haven’t read the Series of Unfortunate Events yet. In fact, I don’t think we’ve read much Lemony Snicket/Daniel Handler yet. I loved the description of this one, and I certainly need to check more out!


  4. I also love this book, Amelie. I like the typeface especially, combined with Maira Kalman’s illustrations. I love it when my kids use quirky words (especially when they were small) and this is just plain fun to look at.


  5. I absolutely loved reading the Series of Unfortunate Events with my son – I think when he was in second and third grade. He likes dark, and they are dark, but oh so good. He then went on to read the series completely through – twice. Enjoy!


  6. Lemony Snicket and Maira Kalman! What an incredible combination!! I’ve not heard of this one before. We read all the Unfortunate Events books and my family reading buddies even got the computer game years ago. i think that they were maybe in the 2nd grade. I remember them being anxious for each book to come out. The books were so unique at the time. Now ever other book that comes out seems to start with “you really shouldn’t read this book”. The kids in the series are so incredibly resilient and extraordinary.


  7. Pingback: Smartypants (Pete in School), by Maira Kalman | Amélie's Bookshelf

  8. Pingback: Next Stop Grand Central, by Maira Kalman | Amélie's Bookshelf

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