Friday, 21 October 2011
Review: The Mysterious Benedict Society
Author: Trenton Lee Stewart
Illustrator: Carson Ellis
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication Date: March 7th, 2007
Genre: Juvenile Fiction, Adventure, Mystery
When Reynie Muldroon sees a newspaper advertisement looking for gifted children, he is one of the many children who take a series of challenging tests to determine if they have what it takes. In the end, Reynie is one of the four children selected, along with Sticky, Kate and Constance. Mr. Benedict created the tests to find capable children who are willing to help him save the world. The foursome will have to go under cover at The Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened to stop the scheming Mr. Curtain. As the four children encounter the unimaginable evil taking place at The Leaning Institute, they will have to rely on one another and their own special talents to save the day.
This book was definitely something special. It had my interest right from the start when Reynie takes a series of challenging (and mysterious) tests. Solving the puzzles at the beginning of the book was a lot of fun, and I thought it was very interesting how the idea behind this book was based around a chess riddle. I found the book to be mysterious and intriguing even as the story was just beginning. The characters were wonderful and quirky, especially the child members of the Mysterious Benedict Society. I love reading books about children who are out of the ordinary. You have Reynie, who is good at puzzles, Sticky, the walking encyclopedia, Kate, who works well under pressure, and the ever-resisting Constance. They were all very original characters with a lot of depth. I liked how the children all had their own approaches to Mr. Benedict’s tests. None of them solved the problems in the same way but they were all correct. The story was fresh and unique and the style reminded me of A Series of Unfortunate Events. I liked the whimsical tone and how the book felt withdrawn from the modern world. Although they have television and radio, there’s no reference to cell phones or the Internet and the characters don’t use modern slang. Trenton Lee Stewart never underestimated the reader, which is a pet peeve of mine in children’s literature. Like J.K. Rowling, Stewart didn’t have to end the book with a cliffhanger to make me crave the next in the series. The Mysterious Benedict Society was a clever book, with unexpected twists and a lot of suspense.
This book was illustrated by Carson Ellis, who I am a fan of. Her illustrations are as brilliant as ever, and I loved how well she captured the different characters. Overall, The Mysterious Benedict Society was well paced and very difficult to put down. With excitement, friendship, secret societies and adventure, it was a great book for all ages.
“You must remember, family is often born of blood, but it doesn't depend on blood. Nor is it exclusive of friendship. Family members can be your best friends, you know. And best friends, whether or not they are related to you, can be your family.”