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The Lump of Coal

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  2,947 ratings  ·  449 reviews
This is a story about a lump of coal who can think, talk, and move itself around.

Is there a more charming holiday tale to behold? Probably, but Lemony Snicket has not written one.
Hardcover, 40 pages
Published September 30th 2008 by HarperCollins
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Average rating 4.01  · 
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 ·  2,947 ratings  ·  449 reviews

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here is a thank you note (pretend it's handwritten because things seem more thoughtful that way):

dear lemony snicket,
thank you for not only saving my life (and my reading challenge) by writing and publishing one of the smallest books i have ever seen, but for making that book way better than it had to be and thereby saving my life once more for making me feel the smallest bit less slumpy.

also, thank you for outfitting the lump of coal in a tuxedo, for reasons unexplained and presumably very imp
Dec 25, 2008 rated it really liked it

this was a nice little holiday book about a piece of coal in a tuxedo.

come to my blog!
Dave Schaafsma
Like his mentor Edward Gorey, Lemony Snicket knows how to make fun of nice cultural occasions like Christmas. He takes the idea of the "lump of coal" gift for bad children and just goes goofy on it. He takes a sappy moral like "miracles are everywhere" and makes it both silly and meaningful in his own way: A little lump of coal wants to be an artist, a little-engine-that-could. Brett Helquist's illustrations are terrific. Cute short book with more words than illustrations. ...more
This is a book half the size of normal picture books. The book itself is cute. I saw this and I wanted to see what it was about. I thought it could be interesting. I was rather disappointed, I must say. The coal was alive and looking for miracles. It wanted to be an artist and help cook some chicken. He meets a Santa who puts him in his nephews stocking and the two make quite a pair.

I didn’t think the story was funny or really had a sense of fun. It was melancholy and sort of depressing. The lum
Dec 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
The Lump of Coal is not your typical holiday story. This ingenious tale is about a lump of coal, one with a flare for art and the desire to prepare authentic Korean barbecue, who dreams of a holiday miracle. The illustrations of the lump of coal are especially charming.
Dec 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Ordinarily the cheery message of "Miracles can happen if you keep on believing" would be enough to set my teeth on edge...HOWEVER...when that message is woven into the tale of a sullen lump of coal who wants to be an artist AND is told by none other than Lemony Snicket - my teeth remain quite happy.

This is a cute, not cutesy, book about a walking, talking lump of coal who really rocks a tux. He dreams artistic little dreams of canvas, galleries and exhibitions, but would settle for life as a bri
Nov 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Lemony Snicket rules and all but mostly I like the crotchety little lump stomping around in his little tuxedo, glaring at everybody. Glare glare glare.
Mariah Roze
Nov 30, 2016 rated it liked it
This was a cute, short, happy holiday story :)
Lisa  (not getting friends updates) Vegan
Dec 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: adults who are irreverent about Christmas and much else
Recommended to Lisa (not getting friends updates) by: Abigail A.
Oh, I was hoping that this would be my last 2010 holiday book; it would have been fitting seeing as how I don’t consider myself to be somebody who is a fan of holiday books. But, I see that there are two more holiday books that I’m expecting from the library. Ah well.

Perhaps this isn’t worth 5 stars but I laughed, a lot, and I thought the whole thing was clever. Much is made fun of here, not just the holidays. Art and the art world are among the subjects skewered here.

The story is very amusing a
Kaethe Douglas
2008 December 29

This is going to be a perennial holiday read, I think. And every time I read it, I love it more.


2009 December 19


2012 December 17

It does get better, every year. Favorite line: "The story begins with a lump of coal, who for the sake of argument, could think, talk, and move itself around. Like many people who dress in black, the lump of coal was interested in becoming an artist."

Really, I wish Snicket were devoting his time to writing short stories.

2014 December 11

The Panda
SheriC (PM)
An adorable anthropomorphic lump of coal goes on a journey to find his destiny. Loved it.

Audiobook, borrowed from my public library via Overdrive, with an excellent reading by Neil Patrick Harris, as if he could do anything but provide an outstanding performance of a Lemony Snicket story.
Ritika Gupta
Nov 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
Miracles are like pimples, because once you start looking for them you find more than you ever dreamed you'd see!
Lemony Snicket! <3
Gregory Baird
Dec 04, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: childrens, holiday
Lump of Coal is essentially a picture book, re-teaming the wit and whimsy of Lemony Snicket with the admirable illustrations of Brett Helquist, his collaborator in the Series of Unfortunate Events books. The illustrations, to me, are the main appeal here, but the story isn't without its charm as the titular character goes in search of a purpose in life. It's fluff, not as impactful or lasting as great picture books like Corduroy or Harold and the Purple Crayon, but it is a well executed ...more
May 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
Nice little Christmas book.

Wanted to give Lemony Snicket a chance to redeem himself after I completed “Series Of Unfortunate Events”.
La Coccinelle
Mar 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: children
I'm not a huge Lemony Snicket fan. I tried reading A Series of Unfortunate Events but couldn't get into it (I never even finished the first book). The movie based on those books bored me. So I didn't have super-high expectations when a family member brought this little book home from the library.

It's a cute message wrapped in a well-written little story... but the fun part of this book is really the illustrations. There's just something amusing about a grumpy little piece of coal who sets off to
Nov 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
The Lump Of Coal is a small hardcover, Christmas-themed book for young readers, by Lemony Snicket. It is marvellously illustrated by Brett Helquist. The Lump of Coal (dressed in his black suit, white shirt and black bow-tie) has dreams of becoming an artist (like many people who dress in black). Or perhaps making his mark on a breast of chicken or a salmon fillet. He is accidentally liberated from a sack of charcoal, and goes looking for a miracle that might facilitate his dreams. He ends up in ...more
Cute and hilarious, with a nice message. I love the Snicket/Helquist duo. The art compliments the story perfectly.
Jan 01, 2009 rated it liked it
Great authors often have trouble outdistancing their greatest works. The habits of characterization and rhythm of dialogue becomes less a hallmark of an author's style, and more a fall back position. Instead of developing new skills, an author will remain bound to what had been successful in the past, at the cost of becoming more successful in the future (see: Grafton, Sue).

Lemony Snicket is not that kind of an author. He has completed his Series of Unfortunate Events, and moved on. Though his
Dec 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone Who Likes a Little Spice in Their Holiday Reading Brew!
It doesn't get much more tongue-in-cheek than Lemony Snicket - whose thirteen-volume A Series of Unfortunate Events explored a hilariously dolorous world - and The Lump of Coal is a case in point! The story of a hero who is "small, flammable, and dressed all in black," who, "for the sake of argument," can think, talk and move, it is a tale suitable for those who hear, at this time of year, "the story of a candelabra staying lit for more than a week, or a baby born in a barn without proper medica ...more
Apr 09, 2010 rated it liked it
If you know me, you know that I am a HUMUNGOUS fan of Lemony Snicket. I won’t say Daniel Handler because his adult books just never grabbed me, but when he’s Lemony Snicket, I go bananas.

I’ve seen that some people aren’t as impressed with The Lump of Coal as they were with The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming: A Christmas Story, but I don’t know if I entirely agree. I liked this book, though I will admit it seems a little watered-down for a Snicket creation. There is the usual dark humor and us
Dec 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Possibly one of the best short stories I have ever read, The Lump of Coal is a funny, charming story about purpose, friendship and perspective and how each can enrich your life. Often times in shorter works you see authors get lazy but in this new holiday classic,Snicket retains his fine literary form, keeping the story flowing with punchy and hilarious ease and spinning a tale of new I will be sure to revisit year after year. For an author for which I read over 20 independent works, I find that ...more
Dec 19, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: picture-books
A silly little holiday story about the trials and tribulations of a lump of coal who aspires to make avante-garde art, told in standard Lemony Snicket style; intellectually dry, absurdist, with a dash of morality. This is a short little picture book, so even more so than his other works, the intended audience is ambiguous. Is it really for the kindergarten set? Well, I'm sure many kids would love Helquist's beautiful and narrative illustrations (as usual), but Snicket's verbose, rambling humor e ...more
Nov 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: everyone
“The holiday season is a time for storytelling, and whether you are hearing the story of a candelabra staying lit for more than a week, or a baby born in a barn without proper medical supervision, these stories often feature miracles. Miracles are like pimples, because once you start looking for them you find more than you ever dreamed you'd see, and this holiday story features any number of miracles, depending on your point of view.”
― Lemony Snicket, The Lump of Coal

Absolute must!
Dec 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
"It is a miracle if you can find true friends, and it is a miracle if you have enough food to eat, and it is a miracle if you get to spend your days and evenings doing whatever it is you like to do, and the holiday season--like all the other seasons--is a good time to not only tell stories of miracles, but to think about the miracles in your own life, and to be grateful for them." ...more
Oct 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I thought this was classic Lemony Snicket, just a little bit ridiculous and yet deep at the same time. The ending caught me slightly off guard, but it's probably one of my favorite endings to childrens books. ...more
Dec 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is my new favorite Christmas book! It has everything- great illustrations, cleverly written humor, and on top of all that a heartwarming simple message that is insightful and helps put the holidays in perspective. Love it, Love it, Love it! Go and get a copy TODAY!!!
A wonderful Christmas story narrated by the talented Neil Patrick Harris!
Luisa Knight
Nov 10, 2018 rated it it was ok
A story in very Snicket-y fashion about a humanized lump of coal that dreams of doing something with art and cooking.

Ages: 6+

Cleanliness: shows a man costumed liked Santa Claus. "Brat" and "Egad" are used.

**Like my reviews? I also have hundreds of detailed reports that I offer too. These reports give a complete break-down of everything in the book, so you'll know just how clean it is or isn't. I also have Clean Guides (downloadable PDFs) which enable you to clean up your book before reading it!
Rebecca Crunden
❧ audiobook review

It is a miracle if you can find true friends, and it is a miracle if you have enough food to eat, and it is a miracle if you get to spend your days and evenings doing whatever it is you like to do.

Lemony Snicket + Neil Patrick Harris = (/◕ヮ◕)/

This is a short but sweet Christmas story about a lump of coal in a tuxedo. The ending is lovely. <3
Nov 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
A humanized version of a lump of coal enabled to talk, walk and know what is and is not a miracle sets out upon a journey to utilize his artistic skills. Cute and a bit thought provoking. It's a winner. ...more
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Lemony Snicket had an unusual education and a perplexing youth and now endures a despondent adulthood. His previous published works include the thirteen volumes in A Series of Unfortunate Events, The Composer is Dead, and 13 Words. His new series is All The Wrong Questions.

For A Series of Unfortunate Events:

For All The Wrong Questions:

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“It is a miracle if you can find true friends, and it is a miracle if you have enough food to eat, and it is a miracle if you get to spend your days and evenings doing whatever it is you like to do, and the holiday season - like all the other seasons - is a good time not only to tell stories of miracles, but to think about the miracles in your own life, and to be grateful for them, and that's the end of this particular story.” 262 likes
“Miracles are like pimples, because once you start looking for them you find more than you ever dreamed you'd see.” 253 likes
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