What You Need to Know:|
• This book, a prequel to The Mysterious Benedict Society trilogy, takes readers back in time to when the founder of
The Mysterious Benedict Society, Nicholas Benedict, was a young boy living in an orphanage.
• It isn't necessary to have read the first three books in the series before reading this one.
• Look out for some challenging worlds like taciturn, monocle, vouchsafe, prodigious, akimbo and draconian.
• The Mysterious Benedict Society was a New York Times bestseller. It was also on the American Library Association's
2008 list of Notable Children's Books.
• Check out mysteriousbenedictsociety.com for games and puzzles.
Sweet Series Background:|
The Mysterious Benedict Society is a trilogy about four exceptionally intelligent children who are accepted into Nicholas Benedict's secret society. They are sent on missions in which they come to appreciate their own talents, while they also learn to work together as a team. The fourth book in the series is a prequel, focusing on Nicholas Benedict, at the time when he was a young orphan. In each book the children face physical and mental challenges that remind them of their own value, as well as the importance of their friends. For those who enjoy puzzles and games, there is also Mr. Benedict's Book of Perplexing Puzzles, Elusive Enigmas, and Curious Conundrums.
Fans of The Mysterious Benedict Society will be thrilled with this prequel which offers some insight into how Nicholas Benedict became the leader of a secret society of talented, "brainiacs". At the age of nine, having never known his parents, Nicholas is a veteran of orphanage life. Although he is extraordinarily smart, has a photographic memory and a quick wit, life hasn't been easy for Nicholas. He's moved a lot, has had no positive role models, and because of his "sleeping problem", which includes bouts of narcolepsy and vivid nightmares, he is often the target of bullies. Despite his past experiences, when he arrives in Pebbleton to meet Mr. Collum, the Director of his latest orphanage called Rothschild's End, he is filled with hope that this place will be different. Sadly, those high hopes don't last for long.
Mr. Collum is strict and unsympathetic, the bullies, known as the Spiders, are as tough as any he has dealt with over the years, the other children ignore him, and Nicholas is forced to spend his nights in a locked room with no windows or lights. As awful as all that sounds, life at Rothschild's End would have been even worse if Nicholas had not been so successful at finding clever ways out of sticky situations. He makes his own key, sneaks a light bulb into his room, and uses his head to stay one step ahead of the Spiders. His optimism returns when he discovers a library to explore, a mystery to solve, and two unexpected friends to share his secrets.
John, whose parents recently passed away, is a kind-hearted, thoughtful boy whose face is marred by chicken pox scars. He is the only one in the orphanage brave enough to talk to Nicholas after the Spiders attempt to make him an outcast. Violet, a deaf mute, is the daughter of a local farmer. She's an incredibly talented artist whose dreams of going to art school are shattered by a disreputable drilling company that destroyed her parents' land. Together, this flawed but talented trio attempts to find a treasure that was supposedly hidden somewhere on the estate grounds of the orphanage. In the process, the three get to know each other, sharing their hopes and dreams and their ideas about where the treasure might be hidden.
In the same detailed fashion that he employs in his previous books, Trenton Lee Stewart, painstakingly develops his characters and builds his plot. When readers first meet Nicholas, it is obvious that he is very intelligent, but as his chaperone wonders how "the boy could seem to know so much and yet so little", it is clear that he still has much to learn. Yes, Nicholas can outsmart the bullies, repair just about anything and solve mysteries that have proven too hard for most adults, but he's still missing something. With the help of supportive friends, the unexpected kindness of a stranger and a great deal of thought and introspection, Nicholas realizes that "the best way to help myself is to help the people I care about." He looks beyond his own needs to the greater purpose of helping others and shows signs of the type of leadership that it takes to start your own secret society and one day save the world from disaster!
Trenton Lee Stewart
2012, 480 pages
Adoption, Bullying, Friendship, Mystery, Self-Awareness/Discovery
• What does Nicholas learn about himself during the six weeks he spends at Rothschild's End?
• Why do Nicholas, John and Violet feel so comfortable with each other? What makes their friendship so easy?
• What drives the Spiders to be so cruel to the other kids?
• Is Mr. Collum a good guy or a bad guy?
• Is orphanage life harder for Nicholas who never knew his parents or for John who lost them so recently?
• Why does Mr. Harinton help Nicholas?
• What did you think the treasure would be?
• In what ways does Nicholas act like a leader in the end of the book?
*Full disclosure - We receive review copies. We're not compensated for our reviews.
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