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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Mysterious Benedict Society - Trenton Lee Stewart

I just finished listening to the audio version of this delightful mystery about four brilliant young people who bascially save civilization. Pretty tall order for four young people, but Reynie, Sticky, Kate and Constance are up to the challenge.

The story begins when the young orphan Reynie Muldoon finds an ad in the newspaper asking, "Are you a gifted child looking for Special Opportunities?" Reynie's not SURE he is, but it sounds interesting, so he shows up. Reynie and the other children all make it through what turns out to be quite a rigorous testing regimen - each using his or her very different strengths to make it through.

After they've made it through, they're each invited by the very wise Mr. Benedict to be a part of a special group whose job it will be to infiltrate the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened (LIVE) and figure out what exactly is going on there. Mr. Benedict is quite sure that messages detrimental to society are being broadcast from the institute directly into the minds of the world's citizens, and he wants desperately to discover the origin and end the problem.

Once the children arrive it becomes clear that there is something REALLY strange going on here, and it becomes crystal clear as to why Mr. Benedict himself cannot show up here (although there is quite a scare until they've figured this last part out).

There is a lot of suspense and intrigue in this story, and the characters are very well developed, which you know I love. This is the result, of course, of excellent writing, but it also stems from the fact that the book is pretty long, so Trenton Lee Stewart had a good amount of time to flesh out his characters. I think the story has enough suspense and intrigue that most readers won't mind the length, though, and may even be surprised at how fast they can get through it. Listening to this story read aloud I think may also have contributed to my connection with the characters, but these four children are indeed very special, and grew to really love their personalities, even Constance Contraire who certainly lives up to her name.

I'd highly recommend this book to all middle school readers. This would also be a fun read-aloud at home!

This book is available at the WOMS library and at Multnomah County on audio (and in print there, too, of course). We also have the sequel, but I haven't read it yet.

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