If you’ve ever read Trenton Lee Stewart’s The Mysterious Benedict Society, you will love this one. The prequel, The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict, is just as exciting and puzzling as the main series.
This book details the childhood of Nicholas Benedict, who later becomes the “wise and experienced mentor” in the later series. In this book, he’s just nine year old genius orphan. How typical. He arrives at Rothschild’s End Orphanage, a gray and dreary place. Uncompassionate staff and a trio of bullies force him to use wits to survive. Thanks to his narcolepsy, a condition causing random blackouts, he must be locked in his room at night. With a newfound friend, Nicholas overcomes these obstacles and many more with his superior intellect. My personal favorite is how he escaped the confines of his room. After borrowing a spare key, he makes a mold using candle wax, and later shapes a key during metalwork class.
For most of the story, he and his rival, the orphanage director, chase after the Manor’s long lost treasure, which is a lot more exciting than I make it seem. Readers will either love the story for its adventure, or for how Nicholas uses intellect and inventiveness to solve problems. It’s great fun to try and figure out a puzzle before the characters do. Even if we may never be that clever, this book sure makes us feel smart.
As with the rest of the series, this book is written with an eloquent and somewhat old-fashioned style. Nicholas’s sophisticated vocabulary adds to the fact. For me, it didn’t seem as dangerous and intense as the later series. The main antagonist is a trio of schoolyard bullies, while The Mysterious Benedict Society features enemies that would happily kill someone. Still, The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict is an awesome read, and you should read it sometime soon.
-Phillip X., 9th grade