"Dear Reader," wrote wickedly tongue-in-cheek author Lemony Snicket in The Bad Beginning, "I'm sorry to say that the book you are holding in your hands is extremely unpleasant." So begins the first tome in "A Series of Unfortunate Events," the tragic, twisted ongoing tale of the Baudelaire kids.
On the novel's first page the children are informed of their parents' death -- and in grand Roald Dahl style, things only get worse. In the "Unfortunate" series' first nine volumes, the Baudelaires are kidnapped, starved, forced into child labor, set upon by leeches, falsely accused of murder, and locked in a trunk as they're handed from one worthless guardian to another and pursued relentlessly by the fortune-hunting, uni-browed villain Count Olaf. With the Sept. 23 release of the 10th volume from the prolific Snicket (aka Daniel Handler), A Slippery Slope, it looks like matters won't improve for the Baudelaires anytime soon. Snicket reads from his latest at 6:30 p.m. at Fort Mason's Golden Gate Room, Building A, Marina & Buchanan, S.F. Admission is $2-7.50; call 931-3633 or visit www.booksinc.net.
-- Joyce Slaton
The Naked Exploratorium
Walk into any museum and you'll see numerous exhibits that have been carefully gathered and displayed. The months or years of work that go into assembling a collection and arranging it in an eye-catching, educational manner aren't visible -- only the results. Just how do exhibits take shape? Who thinks them up? How does the germ of an idea turn into a sensible grouping of objects? How do curators find or build the pieces they need, and how does the response of visitors play into an exhibit's continuing evolution? Curious kids can find the answers to all these questions at "Behind the Scenes: The Making of Exploratorium Exhibits," a daylong look into what makes the hands-on science center tick. Display developers will be in attendance to explain themselves starting at noon at the Exploratorium, 3601 Lyon (at Marina), S.F. Museum admission is free-$12; call 561-0363 or visit www.exploratorium.edu.
-- Joyce Slaton
The words strike fear into the heart of every student: back to school. Parents and merchants, of course, bubble with excitement at this time of year, while teachers launch into a season of workaholism. To celebrate anyway, Children's Book Press holds a good old-fashioned "Story Hour," at which poet, teacher, and author Jorge Argueta reads from his bilingual English/Spanish book, Xochitl and the Flowers/Xochitl, la Niña de las Flores. Sit quietly and listen at 4 p.m. at Modern Times Bookstore, 888 Valencia (at 20th Street), S.F. Admission is free; call 282-9246 or visit www.mtbs.com.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser