This is a GREAT series for boys who want a challenge. (Fabulous for girls too, but when I find books boys will dig into, I like to highlight them). Trenton Lee Stewart has written a great four book puzzle for you to wrap your mind around, and it is a LOT of fun.
The mysterious Mr. Benedict (eccentric narcoleptic) advertises for special children who want a challenge. Many show up for the series of unusual tests (which includes a pencil that falls down a drain and a maze within a house in the dark), but only four are chosen.
Reynie, Kate, Constance and Sticky are the four gifted young orphans/runaways recruited to solve mysteries and save the world. Each possesses a certain skill set. Reynie sees puzzles and solutions where others see obstacles; Kate is a fearless 12 year old McGuyver; Sticky possesses an eidetic memory; and Constance… Well, Constance is rude. And brilliant. A poet. Maybe psychic? With an additional small surprise added in. Individually, they are unusual; together, they make a formidable team.
Benedict must unravel a devious plot involving his arch nemesis, Ledroptha Curtain, on Nomansan Island. (Ok. I can die happy. Great names!) The four members of his Mysterious Benedict Society must put aside what they believe, and become what they are not as they journey far and wide to put a stop to Curtain’s dastardly schemes.
Curtain’s sinister henchmen, the Ten Men (so named because they have ten different ways of inflicting harm) are thugs who approach their work with a casual, gentlemanly air about them. Curtain is the evil brains, the Ten Men are the evil brawn.
The four children learn to rely on each other and work together. They are almost immediately a family, squabbling over the small stuff, but having each others’ backs when it really counts. Stewart develops their characters believably; they grow together and take on new characteristics and abilities as they change and mature.
Each book is like a mystery within a conundrum with an enigma thrown in for good measure, where the reader is challenged to piece the plots together, very much like a classic Sherlock Holmes whodunit. It is a lot of fun to look for the clues and solve the puzzles as the children do; there were more than a few times I had to look back and re-read parts to see what they saw!
Given that the books are written for the 9-11 year old group, they may look a bit intimidating at first glance. Don’t let the size scare you off. Nearly 500 pages in length, each book is a page turner, and the stories will seem to positively fly by. You will wish it was 1000 pages. The illustrations in the series are as fantastic as the story, and make the characters come alive.
Appropriate for ANY age.
The Mysterious Benedict Society series is published by Little, Brown.