Monday, February 27, 2017

Happy Birthday, Lemony Snicket - February 28

Happy Birthday, Lemony Snicket - February 28
(a.k.a. Daniel Handler)

We have been reading Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events since January. One chapter each night before bedtime. Our routine for reading is that each of my children pick something for me to read to them before bed. My oldest son, who is nine years old, has chosen every night to hear more of the horrible things that happened to Violet, Klaus, and Sunny. We are currently halfway through The Miserable Mill, book four in the series of thirteen.

A few weeks ago, I discovered that Lemony Snicket's birthday was coming up and I wanted to celebrate. We usually use picture books for our celebrations so I immediately thought about Lemony Snicket's 13 Words (illustrated by Maira Kalman), The Dark (illustrated by Jon Klassen), and The Composer is Dead (illustrated by Carson Ellis). However, I favored featuring a book from A Series of Unfortunate Events since we were immersed in the series -- the word "immersed" here means "spent many hours reading".

My wheels were spinning and I was replaying all the events from the first three books trying to think of a cool activity to do with my family. Then we celebrated Edward Gorey's birthday on February 22nd. I found the video below of Daniel Handler, who writes under the pseudonym, Lemony Snicket -- the word "pseudonym" here means "pen name" much like Theodor Geisel wrote under the pen name Dr. Seuss, whose birthday will be celebrating next.  Daniel talks about the influence Edward Gorey had on him as a child and the world of Lemony Snicket.

"[Gorey's books] were mysterious objects to me. I think Edward Gorey and his various pseudonyms...were part of the mystery and that somehow Edward Gorey seemed as if he was in those books or that he lived in a world that were like that of his books. It never occurred to me that he was a guy sitting someplace drawing and writing. That seemed wrong. That was just a huge influence on the world of Lemony Snicket that when I started to write these books for children I wanted to present a world in which the mystery was intact and the adoption of the Lemony Snicket persona...seemed as important to me as the text of the books themselves." (From the above video).

The Snicket/Gorey connection made it imperative -- the word "imperative" here means "really, really cool and vitally important" --  that I came up with a celebration. I thought, How cool would it be to celebrate their birthdays during the same week! The big question was, What memorable thing could I do to bring the books to life? It is true that just reading the books together will be memorable by itself. I probably didn't need to do something special.

By chance, I was preparing for our Dr. Seuss birthday celebration activity when I came across an unopened package of printable tattoo paper. My father owns a print shop and passes on random items to me knowing I might use them someday. When I saw the package I immediately thought...Count Olaf's ankle tattoo! (Thanks for the paper, Dad!)
(From Netflix's new show A Series of Unfortunate Events. Season 1 is based on the first four books of the series.)
To make the temporary tattoos I needed to find an image of Count Olaf's tattoo. His ankle tattoo is significant in the first four books because it is one of the ways the Baudelaire children recognize the frequently disguised villain. The other ways being his shiny, shiny eyes and one long eyebrow.  In my search for the image of the tattoo I learned that the "eye" tattoo will take on a much greater meaning as we progress through the books.
There are several versions of the ankle "eye" tattoo. I based our tattoos on the version depicted in the current Netflix television show. (Learn more about the tattoo variations here .)
I decided that I wanted to apply one of the tattoos without my children's knowledge. I slipped into the kitchen for this selfie right before I read them books.
At this point, my kids had no idea I had the tattoo on my inside left ankle just like Count Olaf. They didn't suspect anything even with my wife taking pictures. They have grown accustomed to her taking photos while I read to them -- the word "accustomed" here means "their dad writes a blog about the importance of reading books to your children so it comes with the territory."
My son just noticed the tattoo.
He was mind blown!
My plan of trickery worked just as well as those devised by Count Olaf himself.
This video captured everything!

I made different sized tattoos for different sized ankles. 
One for you!
And one for you. 
I think he liked it!
This was so much fun and the perfect way to make this experience just a little more memorable. But, you must excuse us. We have to get back to reading the books.

In case you were wondering...I defined many words in this post because Lemony Snicket uses this clever device -- the word "clever" here means "a sneaky way to help kids and dads read, learn, and understand big words" -- in his books.
Check out this awesome, hardcover boxed set of the series!

1. Follow Lemony Snicket on Twitter, Facebook
2. Lemony Snicket's Website
3. Another Lemony Snicket Website
4. Interview - EW (About New Netflix series), Masters Review (Great Interview), The Telegraph (2014), Publishers Weekly
5. Teacher's Guide for A Series of Unfortunate Events - TeacherVision

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