Monday, May 10, 2010

"The Mysterious Benedict Society" by Trenton Lee Stewart

Summary: An ad in the newspaper inquires, "Are you a gifted child looking for special opportunities?"  Reynie, a bright orphan, responds to the ad, taking and passing a series of odd tests.  When he finishes, he is introduced to three other extraordinary young people:  Sticky, a nervous genius, Kate, a brave and resourceful girl, and Constance, a tiny girl most proficient in whining and stubbornness.  These four have been brought together by Mr. Benedict for the purpose of infiltrating an isolated boarding school run by Mr. Curtain.  Forming the "Mysterious Benedict Society," the four friends must try to learn of Mr. Curtain's evil plan and stop it--before Mr. Curtain is able to gain control over the world.

Summary: I was discussing favorite books from childhood with one of my students, and she immediately said this was one of her favorites.  It sounded cute, so she brought it in for me to borrow.

The Mysterious Benedict Society is a fun story with lively characters.  Each character has clear strengths and weaknesses, and though the message is obvious--only by working together can people be successful--the story is no less fun.  My favorite character is Kate, who brings her resourceful bucket with her wherever she goes.  Reynie and Sticky may be the brains and cleverness of the operation, but she is definitely the brawn.  Constance drove me crazy, just as she does the characters, but her gallant actions in the end made it all worthwhile.

The story is part mystery and part action as the characters snoop around the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened.  It's fun to figure out the clues as the characters do.  The tone is light and exciting (it's compared to the Lemony Snicket books, which I think is apt, although this isn't nearly so self-referential and doesn't directly address the reader).

The villian's evil plans are a bit vague, and the happy ending is perhaps too easy, but the book is a lot of fun, and I think it would be great for middle grade readers.


  1. I surprised myself by adoring this book. I'm a total sucker for 'clever' kids' books, so this one hit the spot. And the second in the series is pretty stellar, too. I haven't made it to the third book yet, but I will! Great review.

  2. Oh, good, I'm glad to know the sequel is just as fun. I think I'll save it for a lazy summer day!