The Mysterious Benedict Society follows four exceptional children: Reynie Muldoon, George “Sticky” Washington, Kate Wetherall, and Constance Contraire. Each child responds to a peculiar ad in a newspaper: “Are you a gifted child looking for special opportunities?” The children are submitted to a battery of outrageous tests. Each test is filled with puzzles, random trivia, and personal questions. Classrooms full of children sign up to take the series of exams. At the end the 4 kids pass the tests and aptly name themselves The Mysterious Benedict Society.
The first half of the story-introducing each child as they completed the battery of tests, Mr. Benedict the leader of the adventure, and the extremely top secret and mysterious mission was much more captivating than the second half of the story. As part of their mission, the newly formed team enrolls in the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened (L.I.V.E.) as undercover agents. Once the children set out on the mission to thwart what appear to be sketchy happenings at the school, the excitement seemed to die off. There were not as many riddles and puzzles to solve as I thought there’d be and I sometimes felt that I had to clunk through parts of the story. Even so, I enjoyed it and there were plenty of life lessons and morals to learn. The theme of friends, family, and being wanted extended throughout as the group of kids not only share the fact that they are smart but are orphans as well. Reynie is the reluctant leader who easily figures out puzzles, Kate is an athletic, practical, straightforward extrovert, Sticky is a shy genius of sorts who can memorize anything at one glance, and Constance is stubborn and whiny. The children learned that people have different strengths and when combined can create a powerful force.
Stewart’s writing style was great for both kids and adults alike. I’ve read comparisons to Dahl, but I don’t think I would go that far. This is just the book I would have enjoyed as a kid. One of the reasons I loved Dahl’s books is that the kids were clever and could always outwit an adult. This is also true of the Mysterious Benedict Society and that always tickled the young me.
The adventures continue for the Mysterious Benedict Society in: