Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

The endorsements on the opening page of this book are so glowing and complimentary I began to think they must be a joke. Words such as “Like the Potter books”, “Fans of Roald Dahl or Blue Balliett will find a familiar blend of kid power, clues and adventure”, a “Lemony-Snicket-style outing.” But by the end of this book I find I actually agree with these ideas.

In this story we meet four very different children called Kate, Constance, Reynie and Sticky (real name George Washington). As you might expect from a book like this we have two boys and two girls I am not sure why but it does work. I enjoyed about 400 of the 485 pages but towards the end I did find the plot a little predictable. The best parts were the challenges the children had to complete to be selected to join this team (Are you a gifted child looking for special opportunities?) and save the world and the way Trenton Lee Stewart gave each child special and unique skills which were then used as they defeated the evil Mr Curtain. You will be left with some questions at the end of this book for example how can Mr Benedict and Mr Curtain be twins? I imagine this will be solved in the second book The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey. It was charming to see Morse Code used as the main form of communication between our heroes and their adult helpers.

In essence the plot is another of those stories where one bad man wants to control the earth and control the minds of all the people on earth and he is using children to do this. It reminded me of Northern Lights by Phillip Pullman, Fearless by Tim Lott, Galax Arena by Gillian Rubenstein and The View from Saturday by EL Konigsburg. And of course once again the children are orphans! Please note Fearless is not for younger readers - Upper Primary only - read more

Control comes through broadcast signals sent through televisions, repetitious messages that are designed to convince the general population that there is a real emergency happening and that only Mr Curtain can save the world.

As in Fearless, the orphanage is organised into a hierarchy will older students acting as bullies to control the younger ones.

This is quite a long book but I found myself compelled to keep reading even over breakfast. The plot moves along quickly and I think many senior Primary students who are Lemony Snicket fans will especially enjoy it.

The bookseller who recommend this title to me loved the fact that the smallest and seemingly most useless member of the team of four – Constance Contraire – actually saves the day. This was not a real highlight of the book for me but as I said already I did like the way the author used the different talents of each team member. I have just read the review in the School Library Journal and was interested to see this review also had this book recommended. The ideas in this review really resonated with me

I am amazed to discover you can read more about this book in Wikipedia -

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