From the Publisher
"Begins with a bang... resembles the otherwordly experience of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory."Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Fans of Roald Dahl or Blue Balliett will find a familiar blend of kid power, clues, and adventure."School Library Journal (starred review)
"Tackles personal concerns: abandonment, family, loyalty, and facing one's fears."Booklist (starred review)
"Dashes of mild humor and introspection rest on a solid base of suspense, mystery, and well-rounded characters, making this a satisfying dish for readers of varying tastes."The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (starred review)
"Do not miss this one. Buy two copies because they will be needed."VOYA
"Real flashlight under the bedclothes material... this story flies past, thrilling us as it goes."Horn Book
Kids who are itching for a boarding-school-set fantasy-adventure in between visits to Hogwarts might pleasantly pass the time listening to this quirky tale, which is narrated with panache and a tone of childlike curiosity by Roy. When an ad reading "Are you a gifted child looking for special opportunities?" appears in a local paper, it's hard for many children to resist. But only four out of dozens pass the rigorous mind-bending tests that prove they are special and talented enough to undertake a mysterious mission at the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened (as assigned by narcoleptic benefactor Mr. Benedict). Reynie, Kate, Sticky and Constance band together using their unique gifts (be it for photographic memory, puzzle-solving or acrobatics) to uncover the dastardly plot of the Learning Institute's founder, Ledroptha Curtain. Roy's voice, masculine and scratchy, but able to reach a youthful high pitch, is an enjoyable companion for the four protagonist's exploits. Though some of Mr. Curtain's plans sound preposterously convoluted, they are humorously so. Listeners are rewarded when all wraps up nicely by program's end. Ages 10-up. (Mar.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Children's Literature - Mary Jo Edwards
Dozens of young people answer a newspaper ad that offers gifted children special opportunities. After only four of them pass a series of challenging tests, two boys and two girls are admitted to the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened. Their secret mission is to discover who is using children to send hidden messages through radio and television transmissions. The children successfully use their special skills to thwart the headmaster's evil plan. Although Stewart's debut novel is lengthy, it is fast-paced and will hold the reader's interest. Children will find out that the Institute's headmaster is the evil twin brother of the kind gentleman behind the newspaper ad, Mr. Benedict. The young characters in this title will inspire the reader to follow through with their obligations, even when faced with temptation, self-doubt, and fear. This is a feel-good story with a happy ending for the four orphaned and runaway children who find friendship and family.
VOYA - Donna Scanlon
Reynie, an exceptionally intelligent eleven-year-old orphan, responds to an ad seeking "gifted children for special opportunities." After testing, he is one of four youth who pass all the tests. He and the others-Sticky, Kate, and Constance-meet Mr. Benedict, who has brought them together to save the world from a plot to control it through an invention called the Whisperer, a device that works on a subliminal level to undermine the public's self-esteem and perception of safety. To complete their mission, the four children must enter the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened-conveniently situated on an island in the harbor of their town-as prospective students. The mission's success relies on the talents of each youth: Reynie's knack for leadership, Sticky's eidetic memory, Kate's energy and resourcefulness, and Constance's stubborn and contrary nature. The four call themselves the Mysterious Benedict Society, their first step in bonding as a family. Stewart's style is reminiscent of authors such as Cornelia Funke or Garth Nix. His writing is clear, intelligent, and respectful of his audience. He maintains the suspense brilliantly and introduces a subtle horror in the children's situation in the school that is chilling yet not overwhelming. He laces the narrative with subtle humor on all levels. The characters are well developed, mostly appealing, and evenhanded. Ellis's line drawings add a crowning flair. Do not miss this one. Buy two copies because they will be needed.
School Library Journal
After Reynie Muldoon responds to an advertisement recruiting "gifted children looking for special opportunities," he finds himself in a world of mystery and adventure. The 11-year-old orphan is one of four children to complete a series of challenging and creative tasks, and he, Kate, Constance, and Sticky become the Mysterious Benedict Society. After being trained by Mr. Benedict and his assistants, the four travel to an isolated school where children are being trained by a criminal mastermind to participate in his schemes to take over the world. The young investigators need to use their special talents and abilities in order to discover Mr. Curtain's secrets, and their only chance to defeat him is through working together. Readers will challenge their own abilities as they work with the Society members to solve clues and put together the pieces of Mr. Curtain's plan. In spite of a variety of coincidences, Stewart's unusual characters, threatening villains, and dramatic plot twists will grab and hold readers' attention. Fans of Roald Dahl or Blue Balliett will find a familiar blend of kid power, clues, and adventure in Society , though its length may daunt reluctant or less-secure readers. Underlying themes about the power of media messages and the value of education add to this book's appeal, and a happy ending with hints of more adventures to come make this first-time author one to remember.
Beth L. MeisterCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Running long but hung about with cantrips to catch clever readers, Stewart's children's debut pits four exceptional youngsters, plus a quartet of adult allies, against a deranged inventor poised to inflict an involuntary "Improvement" on the world. Recruited by narcoleptic genius Mr. Benedict through a set of subtle tests of character, Reynie, Sticky, Kate and Constance are dispatched to the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened to find out how its brilliant founder, Ledroptha Curtain, is sending out powerful mental messages that are sowing worldwide discord. Gifted with complementary abilities that range from Reynie's brilliance with detail to Constance's universally infuriating contrariness, the four pursue their investigation between seemingly nonsensical lessons and encounters with sneering upper-class "Executives," working up to a frantic climax well-stocked with twists and sudden reversals. Low in physical violence, while being rich in moral and ethical issues, as well as in appealingly complex characters and comedy sly and gross, this Lemony Snicket-style outing sprouts hooks for hearts and minds both-and, appropriately, sample pen-and-ink illustrations that look like Brett Helquist channeling Edward Gorey. (Fantasy. 11-13)
Read an Excerpt
The Mysterious Benedict Society
By Trenton Lee Stewart
Little Brown For Young Readers Copyright © 2007 Trenton Lee Stewart
All right reserved.
Chapter One In a city called Stonetown, near a port called Stonetown Harbor, a boy named Reynie Muldoon was preparing to take an important test. It was the second test of the day-the first had been in an office across town. After that one he was told to come here, to the Monk Building on 3rd Street, and to bring nothing but a single pencil and a single rubber eraser, and to arrive no later than one o'clock. It he happened to be late, or bring two pencils, or forget his eraser, or in any other way deviate from the instructions, he would not be allowed to take the test, and that would be that. Reynie, who very much wanted to take it, was careful to follow the instructions. Curiously enough, these were the only ones given. He was not told how to get to the Monk Building, for example, and had found it necessary to ask directions to the nearest bus stop, acquire a schedule from a dishonest bus driver who tried to trick him into paying for it, and walk several blocks to catch the 3rd Street bus. Not that any of this was difficult for Reynie Muldoon. Although he was only eleven years old, he was quite used to figuring things out for himself.
From somewhere across the city, a church bell struck the half hour. Twelve-thirty. He still had a few minutes to wait. At noon thedoors of the Monk Building had been locked, so Reynie had bought a sandwich at a deli stand and sat down on this park bench to eat. A tall building in Stonetown's busiest district must surely have many offices inside, he thought. Locked doors at noon seemed a little peculiar. But then, what hadn't been peculiar about this whole affair?
To begin with, there was the advertisement. A few days before, Reynie had been reading the newspaper over breakfast at the Stonetown Orphanage, sharing sections with his tutor, Miss Perumal. (As Reynie had already completed all the textbooks on his own, even those for high school students, the orphanage director had assigned him a special tutor while the other children went to class. Miss Perumal didn't quite know what to do with Reynie, either, but she was intelligent and kind, and in their time together they had grown fond of sharing the morning paper over breakfast and tea.)
The newspaper that morning had been filled with the usual headlines, several of them devoted to what was commonly called the Emergency: Things had gotten desperately out of control, the headlines reported; the school systems, the budget, the pollution, the crime, the weather ... why, everything, in fact, was a complete mess, and citizens everywhere were clamoring for a major - no, a dramatic - improvement in government. "Things must change NOW!" was the slogan plastered on billboards all over the city (it was a very old slogan), and although Reynie rarely watched television, he knew the Emergency was the main subject of the news programs every day, as it had been for years. Naturally, when Reynie and Miss Perumal first met, they had discussed the Emergency at great length. Finding themselves quite in agreement about politics, however, they soon found such conversation boring and decided to drop the subject. In general, then, they talked about the other news stories, those that varied day to day, and afterward they amused themselves by reading the advertisements. Such was the case on that particular morning when Reynie's life had so suddenly taken a turn.
"Do you care for more honey with your tea?" Miss Perumal had asked - speaking in Tamil, a language she was teaching him - but before Reynie could answer that of course he wanted more honey, the advertisement caught Miss Perumal's eye, and she exclaimed, "Reynie! Look at this! Would you be interested?"
Miss Perumal sat across the table from him, but Reynie, who had no trouble reading upside down, quickly scanned the advertisement's bold-printed words: "ARE YOU A GIFTED CHILD LOOKING FOR SPECIAL OPPORTUNITIES?"
How odd, he thought. The question was addressed directly to children, not their parents. Reynie had never known his parents, who died when he was an infant, and it pleased him to read a notice that seemed to take this possibility into account. But still, how odd. How many children read the newspaper after all? Reynie did, but he had always been alone in this, had always been considered an oddball. If not for Miss Perumal he might have even given it up by now, to avoid some of the teasing.
"I suppose I might be interested," he said to Miss Perumal, "if you think I would qualify."
Miss Perumal gave him a wry look. "Don't you play games with me, Reynie Muldoon. If you aren't the most talented child I've ever known, then I've never seen a child at all."
There were to be several sessions of the test admistered over the weekend; they made plans for Reynie to attend the very first session ...
Excerpted from The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart Copyright © 2007 by Trenton Lee Stewart. Excerpted by permission.
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