Rated of 5
by Cloggie Downunder
The Austere Academy is the fifth book in A Series of Unfortunate Events by American author, Lemony Snicket (aka Daniel Handler). As we once again join the unlucky Baudelaire orphans, Mr Poe deposits the siblings at a boarding school, the Prufrock Preparatory School, with an advanced computer that will protect them from Count Olaf. Or will it? Having already suffered the loss of their parents, the threat of marriage, slave labour, hypnosis, and the murder of their Uncle Monty and Aunt Josephine at the hands of the evil Count Olaf and his nefarious assistants, the siblings are ever-vigilant of his reappearance. Luckily these well-mannered and uncomplaining children are also very resourceful: Violet invents, Klaus reads and Sunny bites. Snicket’s tone throughout is apologetic, sincere and matter-of-fact as he relates the unfortunate events in the children’s lives; his imaginative and even surreptitiously educational style will hold much appeal for younger readers. Snicket’s word and phrase definitions are often hilarious. This installment, the orphans manage to make friends with two triplets who are in a similar situation. But it isn’t enough to save them from horrible living conditions, enduring boring lessons and nasty teasing classmates, or in Sunny’s case, secretarial duties, as well as cruel punishments like torture by violin recital, toe-nipping crabs and nightly running exercises. Violet turns her inventing skills to staple manufacture, Klaus manages to read important notes without his glasses and Sunny’s vocabulary seems to be improving. The alliterative titles are a delight and Brett Helquist provides his usual wonderfully evocative illustrations. What will happen to the orphans now that they have been expelled? No doubt the sixth installment, The Ersatz Elevator, will reveal all.