The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey by Trenton Lee Stewart

The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey by Trenton Lee Stewart The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey is the second book in a three book series. You can read my review of the first book of the series here and the third book here . There is a fun book of puzzles and riddles for kids that want more of Mr. Benedict’s conundrums called Mr. Benedict’s Book of Perplexing Puzzles, Elusive Enigmas, and Curious Conundrums (affiliate link). Trenton Lee Stewart also wrote a companion book called The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict that I will be reviewing soon.

My Mom-Meter gives this particular book an overall safety rating of 1 (Safe) for ages 8 and up.

Wikipedia has a decent synopsis of the book here.

Here are the potential moral issues parents might wish to talk with their kids about:

Language:

  • Constance Contraire (a contrary three-year-old) says “stupid bird,” “stupid dictionary,” “stupid law,” and “stupid example.” Kate says “stupid plant.”
  • Someone says “a loud oath.”
  • Librarian calls the Ten Men “fools.”
  • Kate says “Holy smokes!” as a joke.
  • Milligan says the Jackson and Jillson are “quite stupid.”
  • A man the children rescue says “Who the devil are you?” and “confounded island.”
  • A villain says “you idiots!” and “Don’t be a fool!”

Magic:

  • Hypnosis is mentioned. Near the end of the story, Mr. Benedict uses a crude form of hypnosis to trick SQ into removing his handcuffs.
  • Constance has some sort of psychic ability (not associated with the occult), and there are many references to it, as the children try to understand what she can do. It is described as “highly developed unconscious pattern recognition.”
  • The “Old Hag” is mentioned three times, “a notorious hallucination occasionally suffered by people with certain sleep disorders. she appears as a figure crouching near the person’s bed, or even sitting on the person’s chest.” At one point in the story, Reynie, thinks he is being attacked by the “Old Hag,” but it turns out to be a real person.
  • Elves are mentioned as a joke several times.
  • The term, “fairy dust,” is used to describe the way things look after being knocked in the head.
  • Kate sarcastically tells someone they came to the island through “magic.”

Rude/dangerous behavior:

  • Kate runs the farm while Milligan (her father) is away on secret missions.
  • Kate practices regurgitating things after swallowing them. There is a description of how escape artists practice that trick, and Kate uses her talent at one point in the story. Her attempts are described several times as “retching” or “gagging.”
  • Kate has a pet falcon.
  • Milligan picks a lock and “borrows” a police car while rescuing the children.

Romance:

  • “Sticky had briefly had a girlfriend until she broke up with him for remarking on her ‘pulchritude.'”

Violence:

  • Kate says that she would have punched Sticky if he had used a long word describe her.
  • Mr. Curtain has “Ten Men” as his henchmen. They dress like businessmen and have ten deadly weapons that look like office supplies: “shockwatches” that electrocute their victims, neckties that can be made into whips, handkerchiefs that are soaked in something to knock you out, razor-sharp pencils for throwing, poisonous chewing gum, laser pointer with real laser (several times it is mentioned the laser pointer can cut ears off), etc.
  • Kate jokes that maybe Jillson was struck by lightning.
  • A fish vendor is “lopping off fish heads.”
  • “Ten Men” use their “shockwatches” to attack two librarians.
  • “Ten Men” attack the children in a scary scene, and Kate throws lemon juice in one man’s eyes.
  • Milligan shoots two “Ten Men” with tranquilizer darts. It is implied that he had already knocked out 3 more “Ten Men.”
  • Milligan has a small tool like an Army knife and a tranquilizer gun.
  • Kate discovers that Milligan is covered in cuts and bruises.
  • A “Ten Man” holds a man as a prisoner.
  • There are several times various characters wanted to “throttle” someone.
  • Milligan jumps off a cliff to get away from McCracken and he falls 50 feet and breaks almost all the bones in his body.
  • Risker nearly drowns Reynie in a rage.
  • Kate imagines “pummeling [Mr. Curtain] about the ears.”
  • Milligan gives the kids a flare gun (which they never use).
  • Reynie is attacked in his sleep and Kate saves him.
  • Kate hits a villain with a marble from her slingshot.
  • The “Ten Men” are pretty creepy villains.
  • There is a graphic description of Milligan’s fight with McCracken (the top “Ten Man”).
  • Kate tells McCracken “You’re going to wish you didn’t live.”

Potential Discussion Points:

  • This book is about gifted kids. Potential Discussion Point: What the strengths of the four kids in this story? What do you think their weaknesses are?
  • Mr. Benedict, his twin, and their (deceased) parents have narcolepsy. Potential Discussion Point: What is narcolepsy?
  • Mr. Benedict tells Reynie that “wickedness is simply more noticeable than goodness.” Potential Discussion Point: Do you think that wickedness is increasing or do you agree with Mr. Benedict that it is just more noticeable?
  • The children decide to sneak away to rescue Mr. Benedict. When the children finally run into Milligan, Kate realizes how much worry she had put her father through. Potential Discussion Point: Even though the story ends well, do you really think the children made the right decision to sneak away? 
  • Constance “had long believed that becoming Mr. Benedict’s adopted daughter would…make her into something other than a lost and wandering oddity of a girl.” Potential Discussion Point: What do you think it is like to be an orphan and not know where you come from?
  • Reynie thought that Captain Noland was trying to bribe him by giving him a diamond. Reynie finds out later that he was wrong. Potential Discussion Point: What would you do if you thought someone was trying to bribe you? Isn’t it interesting how quickly Reynie distrusted the captain? Do you think he was right to distrust him?
  • Milligan refuses to shoot a “Ten Man” when there is a chance he would kill the “Ten Man.” When Kate asks Milligan about it, he says “We’re not like them, Kate. That’s the entire point of trying to stop them.” Near the end of the book, Kate is about to run over two villains who are knocked out. She chooses to swerve and avoid hitting them. Finally, in the last skirmish, Kate has the opportunity to throw an explosive and kill most of the villains, but she chose to spare them. Potential Discussion Point: Do you think that Milligan and Kate made the right decisions? Is it ever right to kill someone?
  • “Although they understood that it was Milligan’s duty to keep them safe, they also understood their own duty required them to disobey him.” Potential Discussion Point: Do you think that it was the children’s “duty” to disobey Milligan? Do you think that the children trusted their intelligence more than the help of the adults in their life? Was that a wise decision on their part?

Liam is on vacation now, but he will be back to post his review of this book next week!

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