Monday, 22 September 2014

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Austere Academy, Chapter 11

We’re on the final stretch of The Austere Academy now, just another three chapters to go this week. This first one is quite long, so let’s get started.


What Happens?

Duncan and Isadora head off to run around the track disguised as the Baudelaires and pulling a bag of flour (to act as Sunny). Meanwhile Violet and Sunny work together to create staples, while Klaus studies for his exam and reads stories to Violet to help her revise. The plan seems to work quite well, which leaves the Baudelaires feeling quietly confident that this time they might outsmart Olaf.

Thoughts as I read:

Remember how last chapter the Quagmires decided they would create an imitation Sunny using a bag of flour on a piece of string, well that’s what this chapter’s picture is. It’s a simple little image of a bag of flour, with a ribbon, and a smiley face complete with four pointy teeth. The resemblance is almost uncanny!

Snicket opens up this chapter with a description of an occasion when he dressed up as a bullfighter and it made him feel like a totally different person. This enabled him to do something that he had been unable to do before. He met Beatrice and tried to give her a message about Count Olaf. Unfortunately we will never know what that message was because the text breaks off here and Snicket tells us he can’t bear to tell us what this message was. I love these little Fourth Wall breaking moments in these books.

Anyway, back at Prufrock Prep, the Quagmires are finding the game of dress up quite exciting. Considering Duncan is wearing Klaus’s glasses, I’m wondering how Klaus will actually be able to see to study Isadora’s notebook. Luckily they were able to filch a bag of flour to play the part of Sunny, and Violet got hold of a fork, creamed spinach and a small potato in order to help make staples. I’m curious about what it is she’s going to make.

Unfortunately the disguises aren’t brilliant, owing to a variety of factors, the least of which being that the children are different heights, but it’s the best they can do at short notice and they’ll have to get by the best they can! They’re relying on the fact that Count Olaf won’t be able to tell the difference between them in the evening light.

Violet thinks that a better course of action would be for the Baudelaires to make use of their new found running skills to just run away. Klaus agrees that they could then call Mr Poe and Sunny adds “Zubu” meaning “Or attend a different school, under different names.” Isadora helpfully puts paid to these suggestions, after all, Mr Poe is no help and Olaf finds them no matter where they go. Besides, they’re friends, and what are friends for, if not to disguise themselves as you in order to spend the night running around a track under the supervision of a murderous criminal.

There’s a momentary hiccough in the plan as they realise they have nothing to drag the flour bag Sunny around the track. Duncan does suggest that they could kick it around, though Klaus points out that if Olaf thought they were kicking Sunny around it might give the game away somewhat.

Violet’s solution gives the knitter in me a sort of jolt. She grabs a loose thread on Duncan’s jumper and pulls it out to give her a bit of yarn to attach to the flour bag Sunny. To be fair she does apologise to Duncan for ruining his sweater and there’s no knowing if it was an actual handknit, but still, it’s a little bit upsetting.

The chapter just gets even more distressing after this. The Quagmires have to go off to play at being running Baudelaire’s and as the real Baudelaires wave goodbye to them, they’re reminded of the last time they saw their parents and waved goodbye to them. This isn’t ominous at all, is it?

Klaus is a little bit hopeful, pointing out that from a distance the Quagmires don’t look too bad. Sunny agrees with an “Abax” and they then turn their attention to the staple-making device. It turns out that the things Violet pinched from the kitchen are only part of the plan, she also needs the crabs in the Orphan Shack as well as the tap shoes she made. They use the shoes to get the biggest crab in one corner and then use the toe-shaped potato to make the crab snap his claws. The potato will be pulled away that the last minute and instead he will snap the metal rods into staple sized pieces. It’s so crazy it might actually work.

While Sunny and Violet are occupied with the crab, Klaus gets down to business with the studying. He has to not only learn all the measurements for himself, but also read the stories to Violet while she works. And so this goes on for the next couple of hours. I’m pleased to see that Klaus does struggle to read, but he gets by okay in the end. I’m surprised he doesn’t give himself a headache squinting at the notebook.

There’s a nice little moment where Klaus has his sisters test him. Sunny asks “Soap?” and gets the measurements of a block of soap in response (8cm x 8cm x 8cm, if you’re interested). Then it’s time to start bending the snipped metal into shape, while Klaus reads Remora’s stories to Violet.

Sunny asks “Shablo” which means “How are we going to do that?” referring to the staple bending issue. The answer is simple; the creamed spinach acts as glue to attach the fork to a bale of hay, then they put the metal over the fork, tap it with their shoes and it turns the rod into a staple. Sunny announces “Gyba!” meaning “You’re a genius! But what can I do to help?” and is promptly given the task of scaring away the crabs while Violet works.

And so the chapter ends with the Baudelaires actually feeling quite happy for once because this little scene reminds them of how they used to spend their time together at the Baudelaire mansion. They’re starting to think the plan might just work which once again sounds just a little bit too good to be true.


But we’ll have to wait until tomorrow to find out just exactly what’s going to happen next.

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