The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

Four exceptional children:
Sticky Washington, the boy with a glue-like memory.
Kate the Great Weatherall, or The Great Kate Weather Machine as she would prefer to be called.
Reynie Muldoon, the leader with a knack for figuring out puzzles.
Cranky Constance whose salient talent is that of finding the negative in everything and telling everybody about it, loudly and sometimes in verse.

Their Mission: To save the world, of course.

Their Enemy: Ledroptha Curtain, arch-villain whose goal is control of the world and whose methods are almost impossible to resist.

Their Friends: Mr. Benedict, Mysterious Milligan, Rhonda Kazembe, and Pencil Woman Number Two.

Can four children infiltrate the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened (L.I.V.E.), find out what Mr. Curtain is doing, how he is doing it, and how to stop him before he takes over the world?

I loved this book. It reminded me first of last year’s Kiki Strike —without the feminist agenda. In The Mysterious Benedict Society, just in Kiki Strike, four children form a team to fight evil, each has his own special abilities, and the adventure never quits. But in Benedict the children are two boys and two girls, and there’s never any hint of boys against girls or that obnoxious phrase “girl power.”

I think, for Harry Potter fans, there are some HP echoes, too, although I can’t be sure since I’m the only reader in North America who hasn’t read Harry Potter. (Constance and I share a stubborn streak.) Anyway, the idea of an elite group of children with special abilities who are tasked with learning to use their talents and finding a way to save the world seems to me to be straight out of the HP world.

Other themes in the books include: facing fear, finding and cherishing family, and teamwork. Each of these motifs is played out in the course of an adventure that keeps the reader turning the pages to see what will happen next. The Mysterious Benedict Society is Mr. Stewart’s first novel for children, and it’s a corker. I can hardly wait to read more books by this author.

Oh, and Computer Guru Son, who is a Decemberists (musical group) fan, immediately recognized the cover art as the work of Carson Ellis who also does the album cover art for the Decembrists. Here’s an interview with Ms. Ellis, if you’re interested.

Two more things you’ll understand only if you’ve already read the book: I really liked the revelation about Connie at the end of the book, and I didn’t guess it at all. And did anyone else have the brains and the time to figure out the riddle at the end of the book concerning Mr. Benedict’s first name? I must be dense because I still have no idea.

Oh, I also liked the fact that the book actually ends. The author may have left some room for a sequel, but in our mania for sequels and series we’ve gone way overboard, IMHO. I’m sort of tired of the book that never ends but only promises to do so possibly at some time in the future, and this one was a satisfying change. Nice ending, and I’m game for a possible sequel with some of the same characters or for something completely different from Mr. Stewart next time around.

The Curiosity Chronicle: An Interview With Trenton Lee Stewart.

Other reviews:

Renee’s Book of the Day: “I did enjoy the book a lot and definitely believe that ten- or eleven- year olds would drink this book right up. It’s full of puzzles, intrigue, evil plots, bullies, sinister institutions, action, humor, and warmth.”

Jen Robinson’s Book Page: “I would have adored this book when I was 10 or 11. The Mysterious Benedict Society is a sure winner for middle grade readers, boy and girls, especially if they like puzzles, or reading about mystery and adventure.”

41 thoughts on “The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

  1. I also found serious Snicket echoes in TMBS – as did many of the students that I convinced to try this book. Definitely a keeper, and good for anyone over the age of 10.

  2. We LOVED this book at our house! I, too, did not guess about Constance. The riddle at the end is tricky – I was pretty sure that Mr. Benedict’s name would be somewhere in the book in Morse code, but I couldn’t find it. I finally looked it up online – the book has a really good website to go along with it – and there is a Morse code in the inside cover, just under the author information.

    IIRC, the website says that there will be more books with the group.

  3. I loved this book. I read and reviewed it back in June. It is so much fun. I loved so many different aspects about the book. And like you I didn’t guess that fact about Connie :) Anyway, I’m glad you enjoyed this one!

  4. Glad you liked this book, too. I hadn’t thought about the fact that it “ends”, but I do like that, too. I’m a bit weary of trilogies. Thanks for the quote.

  5. Pingback: Cybils for Giving at Semicolon

  6. Just finished two nights ago. I thought this book was great. I also saw some similarities to A Series of Unfortunate Events, but I liked TMBS far more. Beyond obvious elements, like orphans with singular abilities and secrets and mean adults, there were some big differences. One important similarity is that the kids are devoted to each other and depend on each other.

    But the big differences are in the moral clarity that children develop in TMBS, whereas I found that moral issues became muddies and never clarified in ASUE. The end of ASUE was a big disappointment, whereas it was especially satisfying in TMBS. I especially liked how the silly name of the harbor island became the theme of the book: Nomansan Island. I’m looking forward to the sequel.

    BTW, I don’t know how I was led to your blog, but I’ve been enjoying it immensely. I’d like to link to your review, if you dont’ mind.

    -Dan

  7. Pingback: The Parrot’s Perch » Blog Archive » More on The Mysterious Benedict Society - Book reviews and Publisher links

  8. Mr. Benedict’s first name is Nicholas. I read that there is going to be a sequel. I hope so. I agree with all you say.( I liked this book much more than Harry Potter, Which got rather insufferable towards the end.)

  9. i think it truly is an amazing book i would recomnd it 4 anyone who loves to read and are into adventure and mystery.Ii havent found the name either but im sure its in morse code. and im very eager to find out what his first name is!

  10. Pingback: Gleaned from the Saturday Review at Semicolon

  11. how do you know mr. benedicts name is nicholas? i loved the book and hope for a sequel.

  12. Pingback: The Golllywhopper Games by Jody Feldman at Semicolon

  13. Pingback: Children’s Fiction of 2008: Series and Sequels Succeed in Succession at Semicolon

  14. i loved this book! How in the world is connie Girl 3? what kind of name is Ledroptha, i mean seriosly? anyway, i love this book, and it is soooo not better than Harry Potter!

  15. In the note in the back it says that the answer to his name is in your hands. Well, it literally is. It is in morse code on the back of the cover, where you hold it when you read it. His real name is Nicholas.

  16. I liked how the name of the island: Nomansan Island= No man’s an island. interesting.

  17. Still reading, but it’s great!
    Can anyone tell me why his name is Nicholas anywas, I found this out by looking at the back cover, but what is the reason for this.

  18. Pingback: The Mysterious Benedict Society, Trenton Lee Stewart « Jenny's Books

  19. Pingback: Great Reading in July « Best Book I Have Not Read

  20. Pingback: I Read It::The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart « Hope Is the Word

  21. I found out Mr. Benedict’s first name because if you look on the back of the book there is morse code. If you figure it out it spells Nicholas!!! It’s really cool. :P

  22. I found out Mr. Benedict’s first name when I looked at the back of the book because it is in morse code!!!!!! Solve the morse code and you get Nicholas!!! cool, huh? :P

  23. I’ve read Hp and TMBS love itjust as much (or more?).I wish there going to be more because I finished all three Asap.Plus I solved every puzzle before the kids did!Yeah I had no clue about Connie Girl(;))either.

    PS I am 14

  24. This book was amazing. In Mr. Benedict’s letter, “In your grasp” would refer to in the book, or in your hands which would mean the cover, and “If you are framiliar with the code” would obviously mean morse code. On the cover, it is very easy to find and extremely simple to decode since it is in the morse code. I’m not going to tell you what his name is, but you may find it out on the back cover of the first book. The second book is really good too and I can’t wait to read the third one.

  25. I thought the book to be very fulfilling and I have read ‘The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey’ and am waiting to read ‘The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner’s Dilemma’. Reading your comments I found that I did realize a few connections between ‘The Mysterious Benedict Society’ and ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’.

    I liked it, but I do not think he should stop at three, and I think many of you would disagree. Children’s novels are good because they could be continued through many different tales. I think that Reynie, Kate, Sticky, and Constance still have many adventures through which they could continue.

  26. I really hope Trenton writes more books! I finished his 2nd book in 3 days, beacause of school, and I’m looking for the prisoner’s dilemma.. If I didn’t have those books to read I don’t know whatd I’d do with my life!! Please write more series, please!!

  27. I totally agree with you Benjamin!! He should not stop at 3 and keep on going!! I honestly hope for there to be an INFINATE number of books!! :D

  28. On the backcover his first name is in morris code. You can google morris code and figure it out..Hint it starts with an N.

  29. I find it interesting that everyone puzzled over the name of Mr. Benedict and thought that Nomansan Island word play was cute, but did everyone miss the S.Q. Pedalian word play as well? I recommend everyone look up the word sesquipedalian and consider the length of S.Q.’s feet in the book as well as his general dimwittedness to get the additional play on words here.

  30. I really enjoyed the book! I never found out Mr. Benedict’s name though…I know now that it is Nicholas but I still have NO idea on how is was found!

  31. Mr. Beneddicts name is Nicholas. On the back of the book his name is written in morse code.

  32. Does anyone know if the third book in this seires has come out yet. I mean for thoughs of you that have read the book you know he can’t mean to just leave us hanging!

  33. I noticed the SQ clue too, hint, look up sesquippedalian. I just knew that one already.

    Also, Ledroptha Curtain is a play on Le Drop the Curtain.

    I enjoyed the Nicholas part, and am proud to say that I have probably figured out all the secret little things in the book, such as Katie Wetherall, as in she “Weathers all” because of the assortment of things she has, or the fact that Perumal is a Tamil deity. Very interesting book.

  34. Hi Trenton, i just finished the third book and i loved it! But all my friends say that there is a secret code in the last book and i have looked many times but then they told me it was in the paper back edition. Is there anyway that you could print it on the hard back books too? that would be awesome. Thanks!
    Jane

  35. The code in the back of the book is morse code and it spells Mr. Benedict’s first name which is revealed to be Nicholas. I too was surprised by Constance. Stewart has two other books about the Mysterious Benedict Society too. The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey and The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner’s Dilema.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>