Published in 2007. 485 pages.
Illustrations by Carson Ellis.
First sentence: In a city called Stonetown, near a port called Stonetown Harbor, a boy named Reynie Muldoon was preparing to take an important test.
Plot summary: A newspaper advertisement asks, "Are you a gifted child looking for special opportunities?" The result is a team of four very special children, under the direction of Mr. Benedict, going undercover at the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened to save the world from subliminal messages that are creating a phenomenon known as "the Emergency."
Why I picked up this book: A couple of months ago, when I took Sugar Plum to her pediatrician for a well-care visit, the doctor mentioned that she was reading a great book that she thought Sugar Plum would enjoy. That book, of course, was The Mysterious Benedict Society. I decided to include it on my Fall into Reading list.
Readers most likely to enjoy this book: School Library Journal, which included The Mysterious Benedict Society on its list of the Best Books of 2007, labeled the book as Grades 5-9. I think it would particularly appeal to kids in that age group that enjoy puzzles and problem-solving. As an adult, I loved the book's puzzles as well as its exploration of the themes of giftedness, teamwork, bravery, and family. Towards the end of the story, I found myself in tears several times.
Three favorite passages:
"You see," Mr. Benedict began again, "although most people care about the truth, they can nonetheless - under certain circumstances, and given proper persuasion - be diverted from it. Some, however, possess an unusually powerful love of truth, and you children are among the few. Your minds have been resisting the hidden messages." [p. 102]
[Again from Mr. Benedict to the children:] "You are a team now. Whether you always agree is inconsequential, but you must take care of one another, must rely upon one another in all things. I don't exaggerate when I say that every one of you is essential to the success of the team, and indeed, to the fate of us all. You must remember that." [p. 119]
[In a mental letter Reynie writes to his tutor in the orphanage in which he has lived:] I can't say for sure, because I have no experience, but - well, is this what family is like? The feeling that everyone's connected, that with one piece missing the whole thing's broken? [p. 255]
Up next: According to Wikipedia, Stewart is currently writing a sequel. Assuming the accuracy of that statement, I am definitely looking forward to it!
For book-related fun: Check out the book's webpage here.