Lemony Snicket, 13 Words. Illustrated by Maira Kalman
Published 2010 by HarperCollins, 40p
Lemony Snicket and Maira Kalman elegantly demonstrate that we live in a world of words that connect themselves unexpectedly, creating unpredicted possibilities. There are connections between birds and hats, between goats and convertibles and even between a baby and a haberdashery.
The first word to be picked is Bird. The bird is sad, which leads to the second word: Despondent. Looking for something to cheer her up, the bird finds a box under the table, which gives us the word number 3: Cake. The bird shares the cake with word number 4: Dog.
The story continues strangely but delightfully. The bird is Busy, word number 5, to paint some ladders, so the dog goes into town with a goat, in a Convertible, word number 6, to find something to animate the bird. The next words that outline the story are Haberdashery, Scarlet, Hat and Baby, creating a funny, dreamlike atmosphere and an original ending.
Word number 12: Panache. The dog buys a hat for the bird but not any kind of hat, it has tons of panache.
“What does that mean, ‘feathers’?” asks the dog.
“Not just feathers”, the baby says. “A sense of style and excitement, a kind of verve or swagger.”
I love Maira Kalman’s worlds. This one is populated by bright colours, hats, artists and a mezzo-soprano that sings about the story while eating some cake as well. The paradox of sadness and laughter, the nonsense and the deep meaning of words demonstrate that Snicket and Kalman are a great team. I adore their originality and class.
The trailer of the book is amazing, one of the best I have seen lately: