Picture this: you are an orphan. Your life is mundane and uneventful. Same routine, day after day. You are not like other children, though—instead of watching TV, you prefer to stick your nose into the newspaper. You have read almost all of the books in your orphanage, and so you have a special tutor to teach you. One day, while enjoying the newspaper and some tea—with extra honey, of course—you see something quite unusual. “Are you a gifted child looking for special opportunities?” says the mysterious ad. Of course you are!
You head to the address that the ad specifies. There, you take a series of strange tests. Kate Wetherall, Sticky Washington, and Constance Contraire all passed the test. So did you. You are Reynard Muldoon.
But what could the tests possibly be for? Mr. Benedict, the man behind the tests, explains to the four children that something very bad is happening. A man named Mr. Curtain is using a machine called the Whisperer to transmit thoughts into people’s brains when they watch TV. The people do not notice this happening, or else they merely think they have had an original thought. This has caused many catastrophes to happen—and even worse, it has caused people to believe that the city is in an economical catastrophe, when really they have very few problems, perhaps a tad bit more than any average city.
Mr. Benedict wants the children to team up. He wants them to go to the school Mr. Curtain owns. He wants them to earn his trust, then stop his twisted ways. But can a group of mere children defeat this monstrous man?
Why, of course they will defeat him, you say. What a silly question! It is a book, after all. And in books, bad guys always perish at the feet of the main character. In books, the heroes are always invincible, unafraid to sacrifice themselves for a greater cause, afraid of nothing. But you are wrong. The four children have strengths and weaknesses. They have fears, which humans do have.
Trenton Lee Stewart makes the children real. When the children are afraid, which they often are, I feel afraid right along with them. The children are human, and they have fears, insecurities, and weaknesses.
Stewart does not give away what is happening to the enemy, so you have the same knowledge about what Mr. Curtain is planning as the four children do. This is a feature that I like about the book, since it puts you in the children’s shoes even more.
There is a lot of secrecy and mystery in The Mysterious Benedict Society, which makes it a very adventurous and edge-of-your-seat book. But in the midst of it all, Constance is there, spouting insulting rhymes and being her grumpy old self. Constance, who is my favorite character, adds a layer of comedy to the plot.
Another thing I love about The Mysterious Benedict Society is how it reflects the real world. When we sit for hours, staring at the TV, the way of life that the creators of the shows believe in is seeping into our heads- although no one is (hopefully not, at least) using an evil device to do so. In a clever, hidden way, The Mysterious Benedict Society is reflecting upon how television affects us in our every day lives.
One question pushes its way into my thoughts and the Society’s heads– can they defeat Mr. Curtain? Well, to find out the answer, you will have to pull The Mysterious Benedict Society off the shelf and turn the pages! I can guarantee you it will not be on the shelf again until you’ve read it, cover to cover! What are you waiting for? Go pay a visit to Kate, Constance Reynie, and Sticky- they are waiting for you!
Review by Abbey, age 10