A Series of Unfortunate Events # 9: The Carnivorous Carnival

by Lemony Snicket

Other authorsMichael Kupperman (Illustrator), Brett Helquist (Illustrator)
Hardcover, 2002



Local notes

Fic Sni (C.2)





HarperCollins (2002), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 286 pages


On the run as suspected murderers, the unlucky Baudelaire orphans find themselves trapped in the Caligari Carnival, where they must masquerade as freaks in order to hide from the evil Count Olaf.



Original publication date


Physical description

304 p.; 5 inches

User reviews

LibraryThing member aethercowboy
It was when I was trapped behind the waterfall, and my opponent approached me, bearing a foil, that I, having nothing but a tattered umbrella with which to defend myself, thought it best to distract him until my helicopter arrived.

"Have you heard of the Caligari Carnival?" I asked. He had not, or
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he was as fabulous a liar as he was a swordsman and interior decorator. There was a reason my parents had given me the middle name Scheherazade, and it wasn't because I was married to Shahryar (we were just friends).

"It was a carnival in the hinterlands. A group of orphans who had otherwise lived a miserable life found themselves there. They had nowhere to go, for it was in the middle of the hinterlands, and their vile opponent Count Olaf was close enough to capture them once more. They asked themselves a serious question: 'What would Olaf do?' Their answer: disguises.

"They disguised themselves as carnival freaks, Violet and Klaus, the oldest and middle orphan, respectively, posed as a two-headed individual, while Sunny, their baby sister, wore a beard and disguised herself as a wolf child. Thus, they were able to seek employment from Madame Lulu, and worked along other suck 'freaks' as Hugo the Hunchback, Colette the Contortionist, and the Ambidextrous freak Kevin.

"Madame Lulu, who was more than she initially appeared to be, had a penchant for giving the people what they want. The people want to gawk at freaks: give them freaks. The people want to see lions eat said freaks: give them lions. The people want to know more information about the Snicket file: tell them that one of the Baudelaire parents (the parents of our orphans) is still alive and well, hiding out in the mountains. Lulu would give the people what they wanted, even if it wasn't honest, or helpful to everybody involved."

He then asked whether he would like this book. I told him that he probably would, as he has a fascination with learning of others' miserable lives. It somehow makes him feel better. He asked if his mother would like it, or his adolescent daughter. I said "yes," knowing them both to have the same fascination as he.

By that time, my helicopter had arrived. The umbrella did help defend me a bit, but I find I'll have to get a new umbrella before too long. As I clung to the rails of the helicopter, drifting away from my adversary, I couldn't help but wonder if I had it lucky compared to those poor orphans.
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LibraryThing member koalamom
Twas fun but also tedious, but I suspect that's because I am a tad over the age of the usual readers of this series.

How much trouble can three little kids get into? Have the Baudelaires finally found something to end this madness - well, maybe someday!
LibraryThing member readafew
This is the 9th book of The Series of Unfortunate Events, the continuing saga of the Baudelaire children. We last left the trio in the car trunk of their archenemy Count Olaf, where they hid themselves to escape from the Horrible, Hostile Heimlich Hospital. When the car finally stops it's in the
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Hinterlands at a little Carnival run by Madame Lulu. Being in the middle of no place they have to figure out how to hide without Olaf finding out who they are.

As their story continues, the Baudelaires continue to grow and learn about the world around them and become more self sufficient, creating their own goals and working as best they can toward them, even against all adversity. Are they ever going to find out the meaning of V.F.D.? Are they ever going to clear their names? Are they ever going to be free of Count Olaf? Are they ever going to get a candy bar for dessert? Maybe but I doubt it.
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LibraryThing member riverwillow
In which the Baudelaires become carnival freaks and discover how Count Olaf has managed to track them down. The siblings continue on their quest to find out if one of their parents survived the fire. This book ends with the siblings in a terrible situation.
LibraryThing member miyurose
I'm still enjoying these. They're great for listening to in the car. And I like how the Baudelaires are growing. Sonny no longer has to be translated every time she speaks! Plus, the mystery is getting more mysterious, and the endings are getting more unexpected!
LibraryThing member bibliophile26
Yawn! I am beginning to think Snicket has dragged this series out for much too long.
LibraryThing member catz
I really like how they meet new friends in this book and how their friends help them.
LibraryThing member delaney.h4
Summary: The Beaudelairs are back and in action at a "carniverous" carnival. Can a mysterious gypsie help them?
Review: I'm getting tired of this series.
LibraryThing member nm.spring08.T.Rasmus
I thought that this was a really interesting books. Its the ninth book out of thirteen altogether. It continues the adventures of the bauldelair children as they once again find themselves in a conundrum. They get stuck as exhibits in the freak show of a traveling circus. They are treated cruely by
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the owners, but do meet some good friends while they are there. The climax in this story i would say is when all of them are standing next to the lion pet, and their basically being threatened to be pushed in.
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LibraryThing member Othemts
The creepiest book in the series yet, the Baudelaires are forced to disguise themselves as freaks to spy on Olaf and the mysterious Madame Lulu. This book is full of betrayal and people with a nauseating taste for violence and sloppy eating. Not only that but it is also the first book in the series
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with a cliffhanger ending.
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LibraryThing member kymmayfield
this entire series is cute, very quick and easy read. It makes you think that your life may not be so bad afterall. You would think that someone would help these poor kids lol but i guess it all works out in the end, or so thats the way most series likes these go. Now I started reading this series
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(book 9) a while back cause someone said its comparable to Harry Potter and let me tell you, whoever tells you this, it's in no way, shape or form like Harry Potter. Harry Potter ranks so much above this it isnt funny. But anyways. its a cute, easy, light read...... a worth reading if you like ya series'
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LibraryThing member EmScape
Another tale that is a lot like the others. The thing I liked about this is that Sunny's utterings are getting more recognizable as words. Sometimes, Snicket quite cleverly uses French and Spanish words with some relation to 'what Sunny means by this.'
At this point, I am just reading because I'd
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like to know the secret of V.F.D. and what happens in The End.
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LibraryThing member GBev2009
Easily the best of the series so far.

A fantastic balance of humor, drama and suspense. With a surprise twist at the end. The Baudelaires continue to grow as characters. This time they find themselves struggling with decisions they've made; Are they doing the right things in order to survive and
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uncover the mystery? Or are they compromising what they believe to be right...

It took 9 books to get to one that I would give five-stars, but it was worth it.
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LibraryThing member KarenAJeff
I wish I hadn't started reading this series but now I have to find out how it ends.
LibraryThing member bibliophyte
I have enjoyed all of the Snicket books, but this one is my favorite thus far. The plot really starts to pick up, questions begin to be answered, and, while all of them are good, this one is less repetitive than certain others (*cough* ...The Miserable Mill... *cough* *cough*). I love the
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cliff-hanger ending (ha), letting you dive right into the next book with less of a preamble from the author. Don't get me wrong, I love Lemony's cynical and often snarky ramblings, but not necessarily at the beginning of every volume. This was a nice change of pace. Something else I really like is Sunny's character development in this book. She starts developing her own interests and taking a more active, less passive part in the story. I must admit, I was starting to lose interest in this series, but it has certainly been revived by this episode. I can't wait to read #10!
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LibraryThing member hjjugovic
Snicket is doing a great job cranking up the peril and the tragic nature of his unfortunate events. The costuming of the Baudelaires in the this installment borders on ridiculous, but I'm enjoying the suspense as they close in on the VFD and the mystery surrounding their parents deaths. It's also
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interesting to see the horrible guardians disappear.
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LibraryThing member Angelicaquezada
the siblings go to a carnival and pretend to be freaks.
LibraryThing member amerynth
Really enjoyed the first third of this series, but the books have really become formulaic at this point, even with a long time between picking them up. At this point, I'm not really finding them enjoyable and am continuing only because I'd like to see how they end. Right now I feel like I could
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have skipped from book three to book 13 without missing a whole lot.
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LibraryThing member tayloarswift20
Let me read it!OMG !How do i read it?
LibraryThing member ababe92
I did not really enjoy this one. It was weird and was not that interesting. I do not recommend children to read this book.
LibraryThing member KeRo0306
In this book the three orphans find themselves at a carnival. As much as I do enjoy these books this one made me a little uneasy because thinking about people being eaten by lions isn't really my cup of tea.
LibraryThing member raizel
Daniel Handler, aka Lemony Snicket, manages to keep the same joke/gag fresh throughout the series.
LibraryThing member heidilove
i love this series. how could you not?
LibraryThing member benuathanasia
Snicket had some issues creating believable characters (even by the series' standard) in this book. Not wholly horrible, though.
LibraryThing member davidabrams
Even after reading nine volumes of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, I’m still trying to figure out which part of me enjoys the books the most: the nine-year-old inner child who had an unnatural predeliction for morbidity (for example, one of my favorite Sunday School lessons was
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the Crucifixion, particularly when they got to the part with the crown of thorns and the agony of the nails), or the thirty-nine-year-old outer child who still prefers the glum and gloomy (clouds dark with rain, Bergman films, picking my cuticles ’til they bleed—that sort of thing).

The kid in me loves the fact that nothing good ever happens to Snicket’s trio of plucky orphans: Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire, left parentless thanks to a house fire prior to the opening of Book One. The kids attract bad luck like black shirts attract dandruff and I, for one, appreciate the militantly anti-Pollyanna stance. Snicket (aka Daniel Handler) has created a world conspicuously void of sunshine, lollipops and puppy dogs and even if the occasional lollipop does turn up, it’s likely to have a coating of lint-fuzz from the pocket of the winter coat you last wore in April (precisely the day when you stuffed the half-sucked sucker into the pocket, thinking you’d save it for later that night). If I’d had the Snicket books thirty years ago, they would have been my gospel of gloom. I probably would have replaced that bedroom poster of Joan of Arc burning at the stake with one of the Baudelaire orphans in the clutches of evil Count Olaf. (Don’t let me kid you, my childhood wasn’t all gothic horror—I also had a poster of Barry Manilow…but that’s another story for a different day.)

There’s been a rather longish wait for The Carnivorous Carnival to appear (not, however, as long as the one for J.K. Rowling’s next Harry Potter book, which is due to hit bookstores, I think, in 2008). It’s been thirteen months since the publication of The Hostile Hospital and fervent fans like yours truly who were eager for its doleful delights had only two choices: re-read the series or administer a series of paper cuts on the webbing between the fingers using the sharp edge of a page from Franz Kafka (assuming we’d already read the Kafka as well).

And what was Mr. Snicket/Handler doing in all that time we sat around bleeding between our fingers? Besides writing Carnival, I regret to inform you he was also penning the screenplay for the big-screen version of A Series of Unfortunate Events, due in theaters next year at this time. I further regret to announce that Barry Sonnenfeld (the gentleman responsible for Men in Black II) and Jim Carrey (the gentleman responsible for How the Grinch Stole Christmas) will be responsible for this movie as well. Fans of the books may now begin administering paper cuts laterally across their wrists.

I could be wrong (and I hope I am), but big-screen Lemony is a disaster waiting to happen because the pleasures of the books aren’t necessarily found in the plots, most of which fall into a predictable formula, or the characters, most of whom are no deeper than your average paper cut. No, what really distinguishes and elevates A Series of Unfortunate Events is the impish manner in which Mr. Handler juggles language and narrative. He plays with words the way some cats play with bugs crawling across the floor—batting them back and forth with happy cruelty before bringing them to an end with a squash (in the cat’s case, a heavy paw; in Handler’s hands, a period). Puns, literary allusions, elaborate verbal pranks—you can practically hear Handler giggling as he pecks away at the keyboard. Undoubtedly, the cinematic Snicket will fail to capture that wonderful wordsmithery.

As an adult, I like the fact that I can take a break from reading doorstop-heavy novels full of characters in troubled marriages, financial ruin and poor health, by sitting down with a swift, light book like The Carnivorous Carnival which begins with the Baudelaires trapped in the trunk of Count Olaf’s car and ends with half the cast of characters falling into a pit of hungry lions. In between, Violet, Klaus and Sunny must disguise themselves while working alongside Olaf at a carnival run by fortune-teller Madame Lulu. There are the usual strokes of bad luck—the answers to the mysteries of what the initials V.F.D. stand for, and what really happened to the children’s parents remain tantalizingly out of reach—and there’s the usual dash of close-calls and squirmy peril, especially since the orphans must work in such proximity to Count Olaf. But, as always, the joys of text are to be found in the elaborately-constructed sentences which decorate what’s rapidly becoming a particularly Snicketian style. Take this passage, for instance, when the orphans are searching Madame Lulu’s tent for clues to their mysterious heritage:

One of the most troublesome things in life is that what you do or do not want has very little to do with what does or does not happen. You might want to become the sort of author who works calmly at home, for example, but something could happen that would lead you to become the sort of author who works frantically in the homes of other people, often without their knowledge. You might want to marry someone you love very much, but something could happen that would prevent the two of you from ever seeing one another again. You might want to find out something important about your parents, but something could happen that would mean you wouldn’t find out for quite some time. And you might want, at a particular moment, for a crystal ball not to fall off a table and shatter into a thousand pieces, and even if it happened that the crystal ball did shatter, you might want the sound not to attract anyone’s attention. But the sad truth is that the truth is sad, and that what you want does not matter. A series of unfortunate events can happen to anyone, no matter what they want, and even though the three children did not want the flap of the fortune-telling tent to open, and they did not want Madame Lulu to step inside, as the afternoon turned to evening at Caligari Carnival, everything happened to the Baudelaire orphans that they did not want at all.

The Carnivorous Carnival rolls along with such wink-nudge prose and even though the first half of the book feels a bit padded with exposition (at 286 pages, this is the longest Snicket so far), it all turns crashingly good at the end in a scene of such cliff-hanging torture that true disciples will immediately reach for reams of sharp-edged paper as their succor until the next volume is released.
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