Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Mysterious Benedict Society

The Mysterious Benedict Society
Trenton Lee Stewart
Little Brown, 2007     485 pgs     Grades 4-7
Adventure, Mystery, Science Fiction

This is the first book in The Mysterious Benedict Society series.  Orphaned Reynie take a test for gifted children, which leads him to the residence of Mr. Benedict.  Mr. Benedict, a mysterious yet jolly man who suffers from narcolepsy, is putting together a team of gifted children to go undercover and discover what is going on at a mysterious island boarding school.  Strange messages coming from children are entering the heads of people around the world and Mr. Benedict feels they are coming from the island and wants to put a stop to it.  It is up to Reynie, who is excellent at solving puzzles and his new friends, Kate,an always prepared daredevil, Sticky, a boy with a photographic memory who is excellent with languages, and Constance, an undersized and sassy girl whose usefulness is revealed at the end of the adventure.  The person behind the evil plot is a surprise and many twists, turns and puzzles to solve abound.

Another entry in the "smart kid fiction" category, this is a perfect suggestion for children who love to read and need a book of substance, preferably with sequels to keep them busy for a while.  It is not a passive read, as the reader is encouraged to solve the same puzzles as the children in the book and mysteries and plot twists keep the reader guessing.  I first read this book when it came out (and loved it!) and recently re-read the book for my fifth and sixth grade book discussion group.  Half the kids loved it and the other half didn't finish it.  This is not a book for everyone, but it perfect for smart kids who like a mental stretch.  The Mysterious Benedict Society has the dark humor of The Series of Unfortunate Events and Matilda with a more complex plot.  Also, as in the a fore mentioned titles, the characters are orphans, which young readers seem to love.  Why so many children's books featuring orphans?  My friend in the publishing industry says its a vehicle authors use to get the parents out of the way so the kids can have adventures.  I think a child's worse fear is to loose their parents and in literature they can explore that fear in a safe way.  At any rate, orphan books fly off my shelves and The Mysterious Benedict Society is no exception and remains wildly popular with my library patrons. 

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