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Publisher's Weekly

Moving On Up
by Shannon Maughan -- 12/3/2001
Children > >

A look behind some current children's bestsellers

A Series of Fortunate Sales

When author Lemony Snicket (aka Daniel Handler) first made the scene in 1999 with The Bad Beginning, the debut title in A Series of Unfortunate Events (HarperCollins), he most likely didn't realize how truly ironic the title of that first book was. In the two years since, Handler's handiwork--currently up to eight of a proposed 13 books--has racked up sales of more than 3.6 million copies. Each of the books has reached the New York Times bestseller list and Snicket was recently named "Best Children's Nightmare" on Entertainment Weekly magazine's list of "The 100 Most Creative People in Entertainment."

The eighth Unfortunate title, The Hostile Hospital, was released in September; it sold 300,000 copies in its first four weeks and has been back to press four times to meet demand. "The Snicket books continue to fly out of here; they're very steady sellers," said Sharon Hearn, owner of Children's Book World in Los Angeles. "They really strike a chord with the kids and I think many of the sales are generated by kid word-of-mouth," she continued. "We had the author here for a signing last May, and he was great. At first we were a bit concerned about turnout because the event was on a Friday morning. But we ended up with over 200 kids in the store [they were missing school]; we were mobbed."

Will Peters, children's buyer at Annie Bloom's in Portland, Ore., noted that the Snicket books "are doing great. The audience is building with every new one. They have a humor and attitude that really resonate with the kids. They're the type of books that kids who are not really readers will pick up."

At Dragonwings Bookstore in Waupaca, Ill., owner Ellen Davis also reports strong sales. "They're really good for the Roald Dahl fans, the Captain Underpants fans," she said. "The newest one is doing well, and we're still selling the earlier titles, too. I think the word is still spreading, even though they are bestsellers."