Thursday, September 04, 2014

Children's Book Review: The Mysterious Benedict Society

The Mysterious Benedict Society
Trenton Lee Stewart

 Reynard Muldoon is a brainy misfit at the Stonetown Orphanage. He has no friends or family to confide in aside from his tutor, Ms. Perumal. One day, during his lessons with Ms. Perumal, Reynie spies an ad in the newspaper that reads, "ARE YOU A GIFTED CHILD LOOKING FOR SPECIAL OPPORTUNITIES?" For him, the answer is a resounding “YES!” he responds to the ad with nothing to lose. He and a crowd of hopeful students are subjected to a series of bizarre and strenuous mental and physical tests. All of the other students are pared down rather quickly, leaving Reynie and three other children as the only candidates fit for the so-called “Special Opportunities.” Bald and bespectacled Sticky Washington has a nervous disposition and a photographic memory, Kate Wetherall is practically an acrobat and is always prepared with a bucket full of supplies tied to her waist, last but not least is tiny and stubborn Constance Contraire. This band of exceptional kids has been recruited by Mr. Benedict to infiltrate and act as spies at the very prestigious Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened. The head of the school, Mr. Curtain, is up to some large-scale shenanigans. The kids are deployed and accepted into the school where they use their special skills to get to the bottom of Mr. Curtain’s plan for world domination.

This book showcases clever writing by an author who never talks down to young readers. It’s a smart book about smart kids that is crackling with adventure, mystery (it’s in the title!), humor, and heart. It’s a great book for voracious middle grade readers. Weighing in at almost 500 pages it’s likely that only the most insatiable young readers will want to take it on. However, younger or less experienced readers shouldn’t turn away because of the page count. The story is appropriate for kids of all ages and the audiobook is a superb alternative to the print version. This title is the first of a series, so if you like it there are more many other adventures to enjoy. Luckily, this title wraps up the story quite nicely so there are minimal cliffhangers.

Mollie McFarland
Springville Road Library

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