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3.4 17
Another Miserable Adventure
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Reader reviewed by Flak Monkey

We get to be miserable for a fourth time with the Baudelaire orphans, Violet, Klaus, and baby Sunny, in "The Miserable Mill". Once again the orphans have moved to another relative, this one the owner of the Lucky Smells Lumbermill in the rundown town of Paltryville. I'm not sure of the relationship of this new person to the children, and we really see very little of this wicked, uncaring person in any case. Furthermore, because he supposedly has a difficult name to pronounce, we never know his name, he is just called "Sir" or "The Boss".
The children toil in the lumber mill from the time they arrive in Paltryville. Soon they have splinters and are tired and hungry, because they get nothing for breakfast, almost nothing for lunch, and casserole for dinner. There are multiple labor and child abuse laws violated in this book, but perhaps it might make some readers more appreciative of what they have given that many children in the world today face these same conditions.

The children all live in a dormitory with the other workers of the lumber mill, wondering when evil Count Olaf might make an appearance. Eventually he does, in a somewhat surprising way. Count Olaf appears relatively late in this book, and from the time he does the book moves and ends very quickly. In addition to Count Olaf, we have two other characters working with him to make things bad for the children.

As has happened in the previous three books, the children are able, principally through their own efforts, to overcome the bad guys. Unfortunately someone does die in a gruesome, though not detailed, way. Once again the children are on their way to another home.

Of the four books thus far, this one was my least favorite. The style of the books is such that bad things happen to these children on a regular basis, but in this book it seems as though bad things are happening to nearly everyone. This book is very depressing. I was also a bit annoyed with the extremes that the author went to in his exaggerations. This time we have baby Sunny using her teeth in a sword fight, and Klaus using chewing gum to move a log, among other things. These books have seemed to venture further and further into fantasy.

The educational messages in this book are somewhat weaker than in the previous three stories, but there are still some. There are a few instances where things are explained, but less often than in the first three books. Because of the dark, dreary images, and the death, which is not detailed to any extent, I would consider this book to be more appropriate for a 9 or 10-year-old. However, as always, you should know your own child and her or his ability to handle the material.

One aspect of these books I have covered in only minimal detail in my previous reviews. The children are incredibly self-reliant. Often the children are the only ones who seem to know what is going on around them, and they often have to solve the problems they are in. I think the message that children can have an effect and can take responsibility for their lives may be the most positive message in these books. Furthermore, the children typically behave ethically and generally legally when doing so.

Because this book was more dreary than the previous books, and because of the ever more fantastic elements, I rate this book lower than the previous books. However, while I think this book rates lower, I think it is still in the 4-star range. I'm hoping for some improvement in the next book. See you in the next review!
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