The Mysterious Benedict Society, by Trenton Lee Stewart, and illustrated by Carson Ellis, is a fantastic and fun read from beginning to end. Four young children, 3 orphans and a runaway, respond to an newspaper ad seeking “gifted children looking for special opportunities”. After undergoing unusual tests they find themselves challenged to join a secret organization and undertake a dangerous mission, knowing that they are risking their lives. The fate of the world depends upon them as they penetrate another secret organization bent on taking over the world.
This book will appeal to a wide range of kids, and adults, too, from about third or fourth grade and up. There are mysteries and dangers at every turn to challenge the book’s young heroes. Each must learn to depend and trust their own abilities and the abilities of the others. Along the way they learn to trust in and depend others. They learn about bravery and sacrifice, and they learn about family and love.
A number of reviews of this book point out similarities with the Series of Unfortunate Events. Superficially, there are. But the plotting and themes are very different, and unlike A Series of Unfortunate Events, the end of The Mysterious Benedict Society is a satisfying experience. Its true that Trenton Lee Stewart has a sequel underway, but his book does have an ending that affirms the beliefs and actions of the group and leaves the reader very satisfied and glad the he or she read the whole, big book. I enjoyed A Series of Unfortunate Events, but I’d grade this book much higher, and I’ve been recommending to everyone I’ve talked with almost since I began it.
For more information and informative reading check out the Curiousity Chronicle . You’ll find games, downloads, and interviews with the author. You could learn Morse Code!