Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Mysterious Benedict Society

A friend's seventh grade daughter recommended I read The Mysterious Benedict Society.  I was looking forward to another good MG/YA (middle grade/young adult) read, though I'll admit, I was a little surprised by the 485 pages (not including the excerpt from Book #2).  I finished the book last night, and it definitely makes the list of good reads for kids.

Premise of the book? Four children are chosen to help Mr. Benedict stop an up-and-coming world menace.  It may sound a bit "Harry Potter-esque" to you, and the main characters do face some pretty difficult challenges, but they attack them with ingenuity and creative logic.  Major themes include: thinking for yourself, friendship (what MG book isn't about friendship somehow?), and perseverance.

I've been teaching my students a lot about endings of stories, and how important it is that everything adds up at the end, details throughout the book resurface at the conclusion, and the reader is left with that "cool jazz cat 'yeah'" feeling.  As I've been reading on my own, I've found a surprising number of books published recently that haven't been fulfilling, and let me tell you - that's really frustrating!  Not the case with The Mysterious Benedict Society.  While there were two minor components that seemed a little forced and "trying to tie everything up in the end," overall, the book leaves you satisfied and wanting to read the second in the series.  After spending 485 pages focusing on how to use logic and creative intelligence to solve problems, author Trenton Lee Stewart sums up the entire feel of the book with a letter from Mr. Benedict, urging readers to find and break "the code" to determine his real identity.  485 pages is too many to read again, but if you pick up the book and figure out who Mr. Benedict really is, please tell me!

Favorite part of the book: "discombobulated" is used on pg. 477.

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