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Books, movie inspire FMS moppets to read

Receiving an “uninvite” invitation to a “perfectly unfortunate Lemony Snicket party” is not a typical party invitation, but then there’s nothing typical about the popular “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events” book series.

About 95 Farragut Middle School students crowded into the school’s library media center for a Lemony Snicket party Wednesday, Dec. 15. The students snacked on lemon bars, lemon drops, lemon cookies and drank lemonade, answered trivia questions from the 11 books and watched movie trailers from the movie starring Jim Carrey, released in theaters nationwide Friday, Dec. 17.

During the event, students were awarded prizes for answering trivia questions.

“We gave away twenty movie posters, several wall calendars, books of postcards, a magic eight ball and fifteen movie passes. All of the students wanted to win,” FMS librarian Brittany Witte said. All students received a bookmark made by parent volunteers.

Students were required to read and pass accelerated reader tests on at least five of the 11 books in the series to earn an invitation to the party. Of those taking the tests, 114 students earned a party invitation.

Library staff and parent volunteers organized the reading celebration for FMS students as an incentive to encourage students to read. Witte said, “We decided to advertise the party at the beginning of school to get kids reading and become more involved in the library. Since Lisa Styles and I are both new librarians to the school this fall, we also thought it would be a great way to get to know the students.”

Styles said Zach Royster, a sixth-grader, is an expert on the books. She added that he wrote the trivia questions for the students to answer at the party and he didn’t begin reading the series until October.

“I had heard a lot about the books, so I decided to give them a try,” Zach said. “Once I started, I couldn’t stop. I wanted to know what happens next. Since then, I’ve read the first ten books, most of them twice. I want to read the eleventh book, but it’s so popular it’s always checked out.”

Witte said the library has several full sets of the series as well as duplicates of some of the titles donated by parents, “but they are constantly checked out. We have at least seventy copies of the books.”

Zach said, “The books are popular because they are full of action, and they keep you on the edge of your seat. … They are full of mystery, and the characters are so interesting.”

Lemony Snicket is the pseudonym of David Handler, author of the widely popular series. Lemony Snicket serves as narrator of the extremely unpleasant adventures of the three Baudelaire siblings.

“After the death of their parents, the three orphans are sent to live with Uncle Olaf, who unfortunately wants their fortune at any cost,” Styles said. “He’s a master of disguise who attempts to put the children in harm’s way to get their money, but they always manage to escape.”

Jack Little, an FMS student who didn’t start reading the books until six weeks before the party, said, “I think it’s funny how the count disguises himself as so many different people and the adults don’t see through him, but the kids are smarter and always know who he is.”

A special guest appearance by “Count Olaf” added more liveliness to the party. Jim Carrey wasn’t available, so FMS principal Richard Dalhaus, with pipe in hand, dressed up as Olaf disguised as Capt. Sham from “The Wide Window,” the third book in the series. Staying in character, Dalhaus walked around the room, making snide comments to some of the students and pretending to hassle them.

Styles said one reason for the success of the series is because the children always manage to rise above the occasion and overcome negative obstacles using their creativity and intelligence. “Good triumphs over evil,” she said. “The children aren’t superheroes; they use their own abilities to outwit the count.”

The library staff and parent volunteers who helped with the gathering said they hoped the party would provide an incentive for students to read more or to encourage students who weren’t reading books to start.

Witte said it was working. “One student hadn’t read much before, but really wanted to attend the party. He read five books and passed the tests in less than a week.”

Joey Poplawski, an eighth-grader, said, “I really like the books. I don’t take the sad parts totally seriously; it’s humorous too. And I like how Lemony Snicket explains big words when he uses them.”

Molly Abbott, 13, has been reading the books since her mom found the series in a bookstore two years ago. “I’m a total fan,” she said. “The books are very creative, and they give clues to the horrible things that are happening. It’s neat how Count Olaf is always hiding his identity.”

Deborah Little and Lorraine Stenoish, PTSA library co-chairs of volunteers in charge of coordinating the event, said the humor in the books is “dry and tongue-in-cheek” rather than “sad or morose.”

Styles said, “Some of the characters aren’t totally bad, but they have characteristics that aren’t nice. The children demonstrate that traits like honesty, loyalty and intelligence can help overcome the obstacles.”

Styles added, “We all love Harry Potter books, but they’re long. The Lemony Snicket series is more accessible to more kids because they’re shorter and easier to read.”

During the party, Witte said, “We knew it would be crazy in here, but the students are having fun.”


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