The Mysterious Benedict Society: Review

I have finally made some time to write my first book review, yay!

For those of you who don’t know, I am a children’s literature advocate! I honestly think that we need to pay more attention to the books that are on the market and what our children’s interest are (please note that I am NOT a mother, I just think too often we forget about books that children/teens enjoy, and that is how rubbish like Twilight is allowed to be called ah-ma-zing. Twilight is not amazing, it is merely a teenage version of a cheap, trashy, romance novel, and I don’t care who knows). I also think that academics need to pay more attention to the themes present in children’s literature, because the themes that are present in these novels are important to the growth and development of young minds. These themes help to shape of society and broaden horizons. Books are powerful.

I wish I could say that I promise to get off my soap box, but as you have seen from my previous post about what makes “good” literature, I can’t. I want to be a part of a larger conversation about books that will help people realize that what we read is just as important as what we ingest. We are what we read!

My soap box aside, I wanted to share a review of a book series I think people would really enjoy with their children; The Mysterious Benedict Society.

I think I am a sucker for a good series. It could be because I never want to see my stories end, I always want more of my favorite characters and what will happen to them next. The Mysterious Benedict Society is no different. This series is one that young readers will enjoy as well as parents.

What is great about the books are that they make you question everything. It is not just a traditional mystery novel. It is action, adventure, mystery, friendship, mind teasers.

The reader is introduced to four extraordinary children who possess very different skills, Sticky, Reynie, Kate, and Constance. They are each chosen to be a part of a mission to stop Mr. Curtain, the villain (what kid doesn’t want to stop a bad guy?) because of their skills and their orphan status. But not only must they overcome evil, they must create their own family unit. This is a story about created family units, and how because someone is not related by birth, it doesn’t mean they can’t be family.

Author Trenton Lee Stewart is really able to relate to children and the alienation they can feel at times. Alienation from one parents, from other children, and from society. Each child faces adversity in different ways, and it through their support of one another that they are able to push past the obstacles set before them.

If it already sounds appealing on a character development level, just wait, there is more! Stewart creates a series of mental tasks that the characters are faced with. They must solve puzzles, riddles, and encoded messages to complete the mission they are on. It asks the reader to stretch their imagination and question, do I know the answer to this? At points it leaves you shouting the answer to the characters in the books, at other points you feel dumbfounded when some makes the answer so apparent.

The plot pushes forward at a clipping pace and is one that makes pausing seem hard. The energy behind the story comes from the questions that are posed. Who can you trust? What is the real answer? Are four children really able to achieve the task set before them? You are rooting for Reynie, Kate, Sticky, and Constance to succeed and bring down the terrible Mr. Curtain (the villain)…or the Mr. Curtain really Mr. Benedict?

Outside of the characters and plot, this book may seem a little daunting. It is 492 pages, quite a lengthy read for most kids. I think what makes it fun is the language and the imagery that Stewart creates. Other reviews have compared Stewart to having a Roald Dalh styling to him. Like I said before, he really does understand children and this understanding of the emotions that they feel work in his favor. It transports you to a time where you felt like you weren’t in control of your own destiny, but rather being told by adults what you could and could not do.

I would say this is intended for children in grades 5 and higher, based on length alone. The first book can seem a little dark, Mr. Curtain tortures the children by tapping into their worst fears, and the central plot has to do with mind control of the populace. However, I think that it is worth the time to read it. The pages fly by and you really want to be a part of the adventure. Once you read the first book in the series you can’t stop!

If you have read it what are your thoughts? With summer coming up, I think this is a great book to put on your summer reading list!

 

**M for Pocket Owl Press*

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