by Susan Rich

Truth Soothes

I am the editor of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, books that chronicle the lives of three resourceful, charming siblings who are extremely unlucky. After their parents perish in a terrible fire, the orphans are shuffled from one inadequate guardian to the next, with an evil count in constant pursuit of their inheritance. “If you like stories with happy endings,” Lemony Snicket warns, “you would be better off reading some other book.” judging by the series’ success—more than 5 million copies have sold in under three years—it appears that there are readers who do not prefer stories with happy endings after all. Instead, perhaps the series’ success is linked to a desire for fiction that reflects the way life works. Fiction that doesn’t pretend that bad things only happen to bad people, and that good behavior will be rewarded with good luck.

Daniel Handler, the author who writes as Lemony Snicket, encountered this reality when in grade school, he shared with his class the story of his father’s escape from Nazi Germany. The teacher was impressed and complimented Daniel on having a very brave father Daniel’s father is an accountant and isn’t often called “brave,” so Daniel was eager to pass along the compliment. His father, though, was not flattered. Instead he asked, “Do you believe that I am braver than those who didn’t make it?”

Lemony Snicket’s books are sought after, maybe because they are comforting even without a happy ending. Here is a series of children’s books that admit that even if you are good, bad things may happen—but you ought to behave well anyway. Maybe, even when truths are unpleasant, truth is in itself soothing.

Susan Rich is an Executive Editor at Harper Collins Children’s Books.

How Books Tell the World’s Bad News to Children

The articles in this special section:

Beware Sentimental Tripe

by Jane Yolen

Truth Soothes

by Susan Rich

Heroines Overcome their Demons

by Gail Carson Levine

Bad News from the Start

by Ellen Handler Spitz

Kaddish as Magical Incantation

by Susie Morgenstern

Cry for Someone Else

by Esther Rudomin Hautzig

History Helps

by Karen B.Winnick

Struggles of Underdogs

by Sonya Sones

No Brainwashing

by Yehudit Kafri

Hope After the Holocaust

by Ruth Minsky Sender

Pain Is a Teacher

by Julius Lester

Forget Bibliotherapy

by Johanna Hurwitz

War in a Picture Book?

by Fran Manushkin

Discovering Hatred

by Leslea Newman

Between Hopes and Reality

by Etgar Keret

The Power of Anger

by Rabbi Sandy Eisenberg Sasso