The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events #1) - Lemony Snicket
Growing up I had many friends who were obsessed with this series in the same way I was obsessed with Harry Potter. I don't know why I didn't even pick this up then, but I'm glad I have as an adult!
There are plenty of books aimed at kids that are saccharinely sweet, and yes there's a place for that. But these are dark yet still somehow enjoyable. They feel more mature to read than lots of other books targeted for kids the same age.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars. I was really only let down by the fact that I'd seen the movie and therefore knew the plot of the first 3 or so books.
Age suggestion: This is a tricky one. I'd say 9+, but it would depend on the children. See below.
Ability level: The biggest advantage in this book is that it explains many complex words. As an adult, it's a bit annoying after a while, but a huge advantage for the kids reading them.
Content notes: These books are definitely creepy. The three children are orphaned and repeatedly passed around to scarily incompetent adults who put them in danger time and time again. There are, unfortunately, children who may find this too closely related to their own trauma, and is important to consider.
A note on the film/Netflix adaptations. I've always strongly believed that there's a huge difference between reading and imagining something happening in your head, and seeing it on a screen. It obviously depends on the people reading it, and what they're sensitive to, but when just reading something you're limited to your own imagination. Recent research even suggests that kids under 12 have a harder time making a mental picture of a text when they're not reading aloud. There are many kids who are sensitive to all things a bit scary, but many others who can read darker texts and not worry (compared to watching it on screen!)
Grab a copy of the book today!
*Book Depository (cheapest)