Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Reptile Room, Chapter 2

Considering how depressing the opening chapter of the first book was, things are a lot more positive in the opening chapters for the sequel. It’s probably not going to last for very long.

What Happens?

The children, Mr Poe and Uncle Monty eat cake, while the Baudelaires and Monty get to know each other. Monty reveals he is a herpetologist and studies snakes, in fact he is leaving for Peru in ten days and he intends to take the children with him. He’s recently lost his assistant unexpectedly and although he’s got a replacement, he’s recruiting the children as his enthusiastic assistants. Monty explains that the children will each have their own rooms and then takes them to the Reptile Room. While there he shows them the latest snake he has discovered, the Incredibly Deadly Viper, who promptly escapes from its cage and bites one of the Baudelaires.

Thoughts as I read:

We ended last chapter with the information that Uncle Monty had just finished making a coconut cream cake and I bemoaned the fact that I’m doing the Special K diet to drop a few pounds. Well, this chapter begins by rubbing in my lack of unhealthy yummies because we get a little picture of the cake in question. There’s three layers and there’s icing and a nice fork to eat it with. Uncle Monty’s really got a theme going on at his house; even his plates have snakes on!

Both the cake and the house are lovely. Uncle Monty even shows concern for Sunny as she has only taken one bite from her cake, Mr Poe also hasn’t eaten much but Uncle Monty doesn’t seem quite so concerned about that.

Violet explains that Sunny has a preference for biting things and as such she likes hard things. She’d probably have been happiest with a chunk of coconut, still in the shell, to gnaw on. Monty then explains that Sunny’s a little like a Barbary Chewer, which is a snake which must have something to chew on at all times or it starts to eat its own mouth. I love all the weird and wonderful creatures in this book, I’d forgotten about them. Uncle Monty gets Sunny immediately and offers her a raw carrot. I used to have a raw carrot every night before bed, there’s a particular way to eat them too; outside first and then the sweet bit inside afterwards.

The children are obviously full of questions about their new guardian. Mr Poe tries to get them to stop but Monty encourages it. That makes sense, if he’s a scientist he’ll be all about exploring the world and learning new things, it’s logical that he’d encourage the same traits in the children.

They want to know what herpetology is and Monty encourages them to figure it out. Klaus says that words ending in ology are concerned with studying something and then Monty gets very exciting, declaring that he studies snakes.

I love that at this point Monty finally notices that Mr Poe’s barely touched his cake and so offers him a raw carrot as well. Is it wrong that I’d totally accept that? Course I’d want the cake as well. By this point even Mr Poe is calling him ‘Uncle Monty’.

Mr Poe has obviously not spent too much time talking to Monty because he’s suddenly concerned about who will be looking after the children when their guardian is off scouting the world for snakes. Monty’s got this covered though, he’ll be taking the children off to Peru with him. They’ll be leaving in ten days which is a little bit short notice really, I’m not sure you could take in three children and then gallivant out of the country after less than a fortnight. Do they even have passports after the fire?

Monty also reveals that his former assistant, Gustav, left unexpectedly so he’s taken on a new man named Stephano who’ll be helping him but the children will be a trio of extra hands to help with preparations. Unlike Olaf, Monty already has an idea of what the children are into and so suggests that he’ll need someone to red up on Peru’s terrain for navigation as well as to cut rope into manageable lengths, clearly thinking of Klaus and Sunny at this point.

Violet then pipes up about her inventing talents and offers to learn about snake traps. Klaus is excited to study the relevant guidebooks and Sunny responds with “Eojip!” which I don’t think is a Peruvian term and the narrator suggests means “I would be thrilled to bite an enormous length of rope into small, workable pieces!” It’s sweet that their new guardian gets them and they’ve already started to bond with him. It’s so tragic!

Monty reveals that he’s quite disappointed that Gustav left so suddenly. There’s a little moment where he seems to get a little bit lost in thought before shaking himself out of it. This suggests that something is going to be made of that later.

The children happily see Mr Poe back to his car, who promises to return with their suitcases in about a week. Mr Poe seems to think that the children need some time to take to Monty but they’re already feeling happy and quite settled. The children all reassure Mr Poe of this with Sunny saying “Meeka!” which means something like “Good-bye, Mr. Poe. Thank you for driving us.” Mr Poe also reminds the children where they can find him if they have any problems, because that worked out so well for them last time.

There’s a sweet little moment when Monty calls out Bambini! which the children respond to by explaining that none of them are named that. Monty explains that “I had a sudden urge to speak a little Italian. I’m so excited to have you three here with me, you’re lucky I’m not speaking gibberish.” He also reveals that he never got around to getting married and having children but he was evidently too busy with his career.

We then get to go and visit the titular Reptile Room. On the way there Monty points out where the children’s rooms will be; get that, their own rooms! Much better than a single room shared between the three of them. Monty also tells them they can pick whichever rooms they want and organise the furniture that they want in them. How lovely is he? I think this book is going to make me sad soon. Monty even points out that they’ll need to go shopping for new clothes the following day otherwise the children will have to wear the same things for the next week.

Monty can’t imagine anyone keeping three children cooped in one room in the house the size of his. Klaus points out where they were staying before arriving here. Monty seems like a really mild-mannered sort of guy but he says that he wants Olaf to be torn apart by wild animals. Given his line of work, Monty probably knows people who could provide the animals.

The Reptile Room is likened to a cathedral and it’s all made of glass. I’ve immediately got an image of the greenhouse on the estate which is a big round construction, all made of glass with tropical plants (and so a fairly tropical heat and humidity). There’s a small fish pond in there but you could almost expect one of the dropping plants to be a snake. The Reptile Room is described as “like being inside and outside at the same time”. And there’s loads of cages containing snakes, lizards, toads and other animals.

Monty has a really cool collection of animals. I’m looking forward to watching the film again mainly because of this bit of it. The book describes a winged-toad, a two-headed lizard, a snake with multiple mouths as well as one that didn’t seem to have any, an owl-like lizard and a church-shaped toad. I can’t remember if any of these are in the film, but I want to check and see. There’s also a cage entirely covered by a cloth, and I remember where this is going now.

The children have a fantastic time exploring the Reptile Room, looking in all the cages and when they reach the very end they find bookshelves, tables, chairs and reading lamps. That sounds like an amazing room to read in. I love finding a comfy spot to sit outside and read, so a room that’s kind of like being indoors and outdoors at the same time would be awesome. The books in this room are mostly about snakes and reptiles though so I’d probably have to provide my own reading material.

I love that Monty tells them they are not allowed to go in that room, they’re implored to go there. They’re to work there every day and to spend their time doing the tasks that appeal to them most; working on the traps, reading about Peru and biting rope as they feel so inclined. But that’s not all they’ll be doing. Each day when they finish working Monty will take them to the cinema. I want him to adopt me!

He asks if they have any objections and they obviously don’t, remembering all the truly awful things they had to do under guardianship of Count Olaf. It’s like they’ve swung from one extreme to another; from pure evil to too good to be true. Sunny responds to Monty with “No, no, no” either answering his question or perhaps not wanting to remember Olaf. It’s probably the closest thing to a sentence she’s said so far!

Monty wants them to go and pick out their rooms, but first Klaus wants to know what’s in the cage which is covered by the long cloth. Monty is very pleased with the contents of this cage as it;s his latest discovery which he’s hardly shared with anyone.

Inside the cage is a very big, black snake with green eyes. The fact that it’s described as having ‘shiny green eyes’ immediately made me think of Count Olaf. I don’t think his eyes were green but they were always described as shiny. As the one who discovered the snake, Monty got to name it so he went with the really original ‘The Incredibly Deadly Viper’. And no sooner has this been revealed, the snake unlatches the cage with its tail, slithers out and bites Sunny on the chin.

Dun dun duuun!

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