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
The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict, a clever and witty book by bestselling author, Trenton Lee Stewart, is a novel that I have read and loved many, many times. As a prequel to The Mysterious Benedict Society series, also by Trenton Lee Stewart, this book is rated highly.
Little orphaned Nicholas Benedict is nine years old and has never seen or known what love is. Both of his parents were scientists and died in a lab experiment when he was very young. He was sent off to live with his aunt, but she also suffered the same fate as his parents. Ever since that time, he has lived in orphanages. At the beginning of this story, Nicholas’ loneliness made me think of the song Imagine by John Lennon in a sense that we should imagine what it would be like to live in a place where everyone cared about each other and how nice that would be.
In a small city called Pebbleton, the story begins. Nicholas is transferred from Littleview to the Manor, or Roschilds’ End. He has a rare disease called narcolepsy which is where sudden or strong emotions cause him to fall asleep at inconvenient times. This condition causes him to avoid certain activities because of the risk of falling asleep at the most unfortunate moments. Because of this, the director requires Nicholas to sleep in his own locked room instead of the boys’ dormitory. To avoid this, Nicholas engages in creative ruses to distract Mr. Collum, the director. In one such event, he grabs a bowl of hot, soft wax from the candles that light the hallway. Hurriedly, he pushes Mr. Collum’s key into the bowl, leaving a perfect imprint behind after pulling the key back up. He then stays up all night molding the key to be metalized. Little to his knowledge, this clever boy unwittingly made a skeleton key of the whole estate, including the expansive library in which Nicholas spends all of his free time. Nicholas makes a friend with a trustworthy boy of the age of twelve named John. The two then seek out an adventure to find the Roschilds’ missing inheritance.
This ending was both happy and touching. Trenton Lee Stewart makes the reader feel happy and safe in this story. At the ending, if this novel was converted into a movie, the song What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong would be perfect. It fits the ending theme of the book of how, even though not everything may go your way, some things do. And some of those things are what we come to love in life.
-Maya S., 7th grade
Four kids,an old professor, his two, slightly quirky assistants, a school for the “gifted” that is run by the professor’s brother, and a diabolical machine that could take over the world– this is just an outline of what happens in The Mysterious Benedict Society written by Trenton Lee Stewart
The story starts out with Reynie Muldoon, an eleven-year-old boy who is gifted with more knowledge than most adults. An advertisement is placed in the newspaper. Reynie, being highly unusual for a child his age, reads the newspaper and happens to read the advertisement:
ARE YOU A GIFTED CHILD LOOKING FOR SPECIAL OPPORTUNITIES?
Intrigued by the fact that is was addressed to children and not the parents, Reynie decides to answer the ad. In return, he is sent to take a series of test where he meets three other children all very smart and with their own quirks and habits. The four are then sent to a school for the “gifted” and have to find a diabolical machine that could take over the world before it is too late.
The Mysterious Benedict Society is a book good for all ages with a cast of characters from young to old. This is a mystery story with child protagonist and a dash of adventure. Each character has their quirks that makes them seem more on the nerdy side but makes them more real to the reader. In this story, there is also the theme that everyone one has a talent or an ability that is needed somewhere. It says that no one is not important.
This is the first of a series of amazing mysteries by Trenton Lee Stewart. If you enjoy mysteries, this is a book for you, though very different from your normal Sherlock Holmes.
-Sarah J., 9th grade