“Miss Perumal sat across the table from him, but Reynie, who had no trouble reading upside down, quickly scanned the advertisement’s bold-printed words: “ARE YOU A GIFTED CHILD LOOKING FOR SPECIAL OPPORTUNITIES?” How odd, he thought. The question was addressed directly to children, not to their parents. Reynie had never known his parents, who died when he was an infant, and it pleased him to read a notice that seemed to take this possibility into account. But still, how odd. How many children read the newspaper, after all? Reynie did, but he had always been alone in this, had always been considered an oddball. If not for Miss Perumal he might even have given it up by now, to avoid some of the teasing” (Stewart, 2007, p.3-4).
It started with an ad in the newspaper asking, “are you a gifted child looking for special opportunities?” A series of mysterious and mind-bending tests followed. Four exceptional children succeed; Reynie Muldoon, an orphan gifted with incredible logic, George “Sticky” Washington, a runaway with photographic memory, the resourceful and strong-willed Kate Wetherall, and Constance Contraire, a tiny, stubborn girl blessed with creativity. The four children are admitted to the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened…as spies. Their mission: to stop Mr. Curtain, the school’s principal, from sending subliminal messages through the television. But can they stop the thing to come?
I loved loved loved this book! Reminiscent of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, as well as of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the book is clever and whimsical. Though the size of the book might be intimidating to tweens initially, once they begin reading The Mysterious Benedict Society they won’t be able to get enough! Readers will relate to the book’s characters who, though outcasts, are each talented in their own way. The book also tackles such subjects as family relationships (or lack of), abandonment, isolation, good vs. evil, and facing one’s fears.
Reading/interest level: ages 9 and up
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl