The book this week, The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart, is the first in a trilogy. I’ve chosen this book for two reasons. One, I think it’s a great book. And two, the prequel to this series (The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict) just came out. If either of these titles are new to you, my suggestion would be to start with The Mysterious Benedict Society, as it will provide a good introduction into the world of Mr. Benedict.
The plot summary goes like this: Reynie Muldoon is a gifted orphan who excels at problem solving and puzzles. Through a series of tests, Reynie meets three other children as gifted as he. Together, they are tasked by Mr. Benedict, their genius benefactor to thwart the plans of the mysterious Mr. Curtain. Going undercover at Mr. Curtain’s school for gifted children, Reynie and his friends encounter bullies, traps, and peculiar devices and they must work together with all of their abilities to achieve success.
The first time I learned of Trenton Lee Stewart’s books was in a bookstore after asking a clerk whose opinions I valued what she was reading. She instantly brought me a copy of The Mysterious Benedict Society and told me to read it. As a writer, I want to feature four things that made me appreciate Stewart as an author. If you are a writer, you should think about involving these elements into your own work.
The protagonists represent 4 ways to problem solve. Though the reader sees the story primarily from the Reynie’s perspective, each member of the Mysterious Benedict Society shows a different way to approach a problem. Reynie is a master of logic puzzles, Sticky remembers everything he sees, Kate is a human Swiss army knife, and Constance is obstinate. Readers will enjoy seeing a problem from different perspectives and may pick up on how to approach their own problems in a different light.
The supporting cast members are colorful and each has a back story. Stewart gives each of the background characters a unique feature to help the reader remember them. We know that Number 2 looks like a pencil, Milligan is sad and doesn’t remember his past, Mr. Benedict is a narcoleptic. In addition to being interesting, because of this extra information, each of the characters is instantly likeable. Details make the difference.
Not all the loose threads get tied up neatly. Though the main plot points come to an end, we know that the story must continue. It is a great formula to use when you want readers to anticipate the release of your next book. In my experience, readers don’t want everything to work out perfectly anyway, as it feels too distant from their own life experience.
The author uses a wider vocabulary than most children’s authors. In writing a story about gifted children, Stewart uses words that encourage kids to expand their vocabulary, thereby making the reader a little bit more like the protagonist. If you want to appeal to a smarter reader, use smarter words.
Again, I really enjoyed this book, and I think you will too.