The Mysterious Benedict Society
by Trenton Lee Stewart
Reynie Muldoon is gifted; he’s advanced academically well beyond his peers. The orphanage where he lives won’t allow him to go to an advanced school, but they do hire a tutor for him. Miss Perumal is more than a tutor; she’s kind and understanding, and Reynie enjoys her company. She does her best to challenge Reynie, but he longs for more. He wishes that he could go someplace where he fits in, and where he can find real friends and real challenges. When Miss Perumal sees an ad in the paper for “special opportunities” for gifted children, she encourages him to apply. To qualify for the special opportunities, Reynie has to take a series of the strangest tests he’s ever taken.
What Reynie finds at the end of the tests is more than he bargained for. He gains friends and finds challenges, but he also finds danger as he and his newfound friends are sent undercover on a secret mission. The fate of the world depends on Reynie and three other unusual children. Time is running out, and the four children must learn to work together before it’s too late.
The Mysterious Benedict Society is an exciting and fun adventure with lots of surprises. Each of the children is gifted in a different way, and the unique way each one solves the tests highlights their different way of thinking and looking at the world. Gifted children especially will enjoy this book, not only for its variety of gifted protagonists, but for its creative wordplay, puzzles, and twists. Its audience isn’t limited to gifted children, however, and ultimately the message is inclusionary: all the children on the team matter; even those whose talents aren’t obvious are important to the success of the mission. The characters are interesting, and watching the four very different children learn to work together as a team is a delight. The pacing is good and keeps the reader hooked until the end.