Friday, December 24, 2010

The Lump of Coal (Lemony Snicket)

This is a story about a lump of coal who can think, talk, and move itself around. Is there a more charming holiday tale to behold? Probably, but Lemony Snicket has not written one.
Merry Christmas Eve! Today I've got the perfect holiday stocking stuffer review, Lemony Snicket's The Lump of Coal! You may know Snicket, the pen name of author Daniel Handler, from his wonderfully morose set of children's books, A Series of Unfortunate Events. He has since written several other equally quirky children's books, but The Lump of Coal is so far my favorite.


"The story begins with a lump of coal, who for the sake of argument could think, talk, and move itself around." This lump of coal, saddened by the fact that he was unceremoniously dumped in a backyard by accident in the dead of winter, sets out to make a name for himself. His two great aspirations in life are to make charcoal art, or help to roast delicious meats as part of a bbq. After some minor setbacks, the lump of coal is placed in the stocking of a boy who has those same two desires, and they all live happily ever after. Sorry to spoil it for you.

The book is extremely short—only about 30 pages—but is delightfully charming. Also, even though Lemony Snicket has a habit of playing with the morose and strangely mundane, overall the book has a positive tone, going so far as to end with this bit of wisdom:
All these things are miracles. It is a miracle if you can find true friends, and it is a miracle if you have enough food to eat, and it is a miracle if you get to spend your days and evenings doing whatever it is you like to do, and the holiday season—like all the other seasons—is a good time not only to tell stories of miracles, but to think about the miracles in your own life, and to be grateful for them, and that's the end of this particular story.
The book may seem at first to be depressing and offbeat, but in fact it isn't much more so than any other fable or morality tale. It teaches children to live their dreams and settle for nothing less; if an ugly black rock can do what he loves, why can't everyone? The Lump of Coal also includes beautiful color illustrations from Brett Helquist, the same artist who drew the interiors for each of the A Series of Unfortunate Events books. This is a great little gift for the holidays.


The Lump of Coal
by Lemony Snicket (with illustrations by Brett Helquist)

Not a whole lot going on in this book, but what's there is quality.

If you like Lemony Snicket's Baudelairean style from A Series of Unfortunate Events, you'll love this one, too.

Great little Christmas story! You should read it to your kids every year!


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