Renee Mihulka – Children's Book Reviews & Writer

The Mysterious Benedict Society

mysterious-719726OVERALL: 3.5 3.5 Stars

Concept:4 Stars
Characters:3 Stars
Plot:4.5 Stars
Writing:3.5 Stars

 

Trenton Lee Stewart
Carson Ellis
2008
Little, Brown Books
512

 

 

Description: In this first book in the ‘Mysterious Benedict Society’ series we are introduced to the four children that make up the Mysteious Benedict society – Kate Wetherall, Sticky Washington, Constance Contrarie and the main protagonist – Reynie Muldoon. After answering a strange advertisement in the newspaper, these four children are picked because of their intelligence and resourcefulness, to complete a secret mission that will save the world from a narcissistic tyrant. Their journey takes them to a special school set up on an island where they are taught very peculiar things. Those that excel at the curriculum are rewarded with status and a special secret prize.

Concept: The concept for this book is quite a good one. Four special children are asked to work together to try to get to the bottom of a number of strange and escalating occurrences that are adversely affecting man kind. I guess strictly speaking it is another version of spy novel, but without the gadgetry and fast paced action. It also tries to showcase how different people have different strengths and weaknesses and that to work together these need to be embraced and taken into account.

Characters: The characters are well thought out but almost a little too much so. It’s like the author has tried to be so inclusive of different strengths and weaknesses that some of the characters are a little wooden. I also never totally warmed towards the main character, Reynie. He was this weird mix of loser and hero who overthought everything. The author tried to show character development the biggest being that the children’s journey was one of discovering self belief and feeling like they belonged. However the characters were never a highlight of the story and even though it is quite a long book, I still didn’t feel like I truly knew the characters or felt comfortable with them. Some of the adult characters were also too basic and clichéd especially the villain of the piece.

Plot: The plot is probably the strongest aspect of the book. The author manages to squeeze in quite a few twists and turns and interesting happenings that kept me guessing. I also really enjoyed the mind puzzles that are scattered throughout. Morse code is also used in the book which is an oldy but a goody. However sometimes the plot is a bit drawn out and I think that the book could have benefited from a good edit.

Writing: The writing was quite good. It flowed well, contained good vocabulary and the dialogue was natural. It wasn’t overly descriptive either. However it didn’t wow. Again, like the other aspects of the books, it was good, but missing that unexplainable spark that really great writing has.

PARENTS

This book is a good book to give to a child that perhaps doesn’t have a lot of confidence or doesn’t feel like they quite fit in. It is also a good book for children that like mind puzzles and spy books. The book is also very anti-tv which might endear it to some parents. The inclusion of mind puzzles gets your child thinking and is possibly something that you can do together or at least talk about afterwards.

Things to ask and discuss:

1) Which of the four kids do you think you are most like? Why? (there is actually a quiz at the back of the book)

2) What do you think each of the kids learnt about themselves by the end of the book?

3) Did you guess Constance’s age? Were you surprised?

4) Why do you think the author decided to make Mr Benedict and Mr Curtain twins? Why is this symbolic? (ie light and dark, good and evil etc)

Come on comment, you know you wanna.

Book Reviews and Writer