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Book Review

The Reptile Room by Lemony Snicket has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the second book in the “A Series of Unfortunate Events” series.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

The Baudelaire children — Violet, Klaus and their baby sister, Sunny — are orphans who repeatedly experience incredible misfortune. Their parents perished in a house fire, leaving a clueless banker named Mr. Poe to find them a new home. In the first book of the series, an evil actor named Count Olaf served as the children’s guardian so he could steal the Baudelaire fortune. Mr. Poe finally realized Olaf was dangerous and removed the children from his home.

This book begins with Poe taking the Baudelaire children to their next home. They will live with their Uncle Monty, a renowned herpetologist who keeps numerous snakes in his reptile room. Uncle Monty, whose full name is Montgomery Montgomery, is a jolly, kind man who respects the children for their unique skills and talents.

He tells them he’s going to take them to Peru with him to do research. The children love their uncle and feel hopeful that they’ve found a forever home. They enjoy roaming through the reptile room and learning about the different creatures there. Monty shows them a snake he’s discovered. He’s ironically named it The Incredibly Deadly Viper, though it is not dangerous or poisonous at all.

Uncle Monty tells the children he’s purchased tickets to Peru. He says his new assistant, Stephano, will be joining them on the expedition. When Stephano arrives at Uncle Monty’s home, the children immediately realize he is Count Olaf in disguise. They keep trying to tell Uncle Monty, but Olaf repeatedly threatens them with a knife when Monty isn’t looking.

Before the kids can warn Monty of the impending danger, Olaf kills him. Olaf takes the kids into the reptile room where they discover Uncle Monty’s pale, lifeless body. With a smirk, Olaf says Monty probably died of a snake bite. He herds the kids into a car to take them away.

As they’re driving away from the estate, Olaf accidentally hits Mr. Poe’s car. Poe was coming to bring the children’s luggage. Still disguised as Stephano, Olaf tells Mr. Poe about Monty’s sad and untimely death by snakebite. The children try, unsuccessfully, to convince Poe of Stephano’s true identity.

They all return to Monty’s house. Poe calls the Herpetological Society so someone can retrieve Monty’s snakes. A man named Dr. Lucafont comes to do an autopsy. He claims Monty was killed by the Mamba du Mal snake. While the adults engage in a lengthy, absurd conversation about who will ride with whom when they leave the estate, the Baudelaire children try to determine how to prove Monty was murdered.

Klaus, an avid reader, learns that the Mamba du Mal leaves dark bruises on his victims. Monty’s body was completely pale. Violet discovers Olaf injected snake venom from Monty’s vials into their uncle’s body. The children must go to ridiculous lengths to convince the clueless Mr. Poe that Stephano is really Count Olaf.

When they finally do, Olaf escapes with the help of Dr. Lucafont — who was really one of his acting buddies. Once again, Mr. Poe will have to search for a distant relative with whom to place the children.

Christian Beliefs


Other Belief Systems


Authority Roles

Count Olaf plots murder and other evil activities to get his hands on the children’s inheritance. Kind Uncle Monty respects the children and nurtures their unique interests. Mr. Poe is comically clueless and ignorant. The grown-ups often silence the clever, wise children with patronizing remarks about how adults know best.


The Lord’s name is used in vain a few times. The words h--- and d--n also appear once. Mr. Poe calls out to God, Zeus and Allah when he is alarmed. Count Olaf threatens the children with a knife on a number of occasions. After he kills their Uncle Monty, he makes sure they find Monty’s pale, dead body. The narrator frequently makes darkly humorous remarks about death and misery as he foreshadows the horror still ahead for the children.



Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

Lying: Referring to the Baudelaire children’s escape attempt, the narrator says sometimes it is not only good to lie, but also necessary.

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

8 to 12


Lemony Snicket (real name Daniel Handler)






Record Label



Harper Trophy, a trademark of HarperCollins Publishers


On Video

Year Published



Publisher’s Weekly Starred Review, 1999; New York Times Best Seller, 2001


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