The Mysterious Benedict Society is the first book in a three book series. (You can read my review of the second book 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:
- Reynie is an orphan. He often feels alone at the orphanage because his intelligence is above average. His tutor, Miss Perumal, is the only one who cares for him.
- Kate’s mother died when she was a baby, and her father disappeared when she was two. She thinks he ran away, but learns later in the series that he did not leave her willingly. They are eventually reunited. She ran away from the orphanage at age 7 and grew up in a circus.
- All three of the children are confronted with the choice to help a girl who dropped her pencil and potentially miss a great opportunity. They all choose to help the girl.
- The children are also confronted with the temptation to cheat on a test. They all choose to not cheat.
- Sticky ran away from home and “stowed away on a river barge.” Potential Discussion Point: Was Sticky right to run away from his parents? How else could he have handled that situation?
- Kate “stole aboard a boxcar.”
- Constance lived secretly in a public library.
- Constance Contraire is always complaining and argumentative.
- There are subliminal messages being sent through any kind of signal – tv signals, radio signals, cell phone signals, etc. Men and women have vanished when they looked into the signals. Government officials did not take it seriously because they were being influenced by the subliminal messages (sent by a machine called the Whisperer)Potential Discussion Point: Mr. Curtain is going to take over the world because he likes the feeling of control. Do you ever do things because you want to be in control? Is it right to use force or lies to gain power?
- While there is no magic in this series, there are things that involve the power of the mind, which could be mistaken for psychic ability if you don’t read the entire book. The Whisperer is a device that uses the minds of children to transmit subliminal messages.
- The children are almost kidnapped by men who have weapons disguised as normal items (watches that act like a taser,
- Milligan shoots tranquilizer darts at the men who tried to kidnap the children.
- The subliminal messages are being sent from a school where the leader is planning to take over the world. Potential Discussion Point: Should we always trust teachers and principals? Are there situations when we should not obey?
From a kid’s perspective: “I like this book because it is full of puzzles and excitement. I think it would interest children from 8-15 that like mysteries.”
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