6 hours ago
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Review by Alex- The Mysterious Benedict Society series
For the first, The Mysterious Benedict Society:
Dozens of children respond to this peculiar ad in the newspaper and are then put through a series of mind-bending tests, which readers take along with them. Only four children-two boys and two girls-succeed. Their challenge: to go on a secret mission that only the most intelligent and inventive children could complete. To accomplish it they will have to go undercover at the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened, where the only rule is that there are no rules. But what they'll find in the hidden underground tunnels of the school is more than your average school supplies. So, if you're gifted, creative, or happen to know Morse Code, they could probably use your help.
First Impressions: Funny enough, I learned of this book through my brother. And I say funny enough because, well, usually I'm the one to tell him about books. But he learned of The Mysterious Benedict Society through my mom who had read about it through a knitting blog. Go figure. I didn't know much about the novel really, besides that it had a sequel and that my younger brother enjoyed it. The blurbs did say it was like Lemony Snicket and Roald Dalh, so I was intruiged.
The Mysterious Benedict Society and its sequel, in one word, are fun. But they're also quite detailed and well planned - the second in the series more so than the first - with young characters that continue to learn and to grow.
There are our four protagonists: Reynie, a particulary cunning and clever 11 year old (who is 12 in the sequel I suppose) who is extremely adept at riddles and reading people (how I'd love to have his skills!); George "Sticky" Washington, the same age as Reynie, who has an incredibly strong memory and extensive knowledge on everything but who is also a bit of a nervous fellow; Kate, a girl a year older than the two boys and who is extraordinarily talented athletically wise; and Constance, a girl who's extremely contrary (and in fact, her last name is Contraire).
What makes the novels so fun and delightful to read are not just the characters, but the plot, the riddles, and especially the witty humor that often pokes fun at everyday norms and roles of society. The humor is spot on- perfect for children, but also perfect for teens and adults alike.
I thought that in terms of planning, plot, and overall development, the second in the series was much better than the first. But the first was already very good to begin with. There's currently another in the series out, with a fourth to be released, I'm pretty sure.
Final Impressions: The Mysterious Benedict Society is an incredibly fun read that's not only entertaining and humoristic, but is also able to put some reflections and connections to everyday life. Really, a must read. Children's books are no longer for kids, just as YA books are not only for teens.