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The Five Best Children’s Book Series (#5) The Mysterious Benedict Society books by Trenton Lee Stewart

June 25, 2013

Before we get started I would like to urge people to argue with me in the comments.  If you are frustrated that I didn’t pick your favorite book series, tell me! I like to keep the conversation going.  Also, stay tuned for the next four posts!

without further ado…

5. The Mysterious Benedict Society series by Trenton Lee Stewart

One day I was speaking with my friend about this series of blog posts that I was intending to write about what I consider to be the five best children’s series.  I spoke passionately and excitedly about my choices, but when I mentioned that I had chosen The Mysterious Benedict Society series as one of my top five, she informed me that a child she used to nanny for had told her these books were “boring.”  Now, I also know this girl, and she is a bright, active child, so being informed that she did not enjoy The Mysterious Benedict Society put quite a damper on my excitement.  I started questioning my choice.  Here was the input of an actual child and who was I?  Just a boring old grown up.  The other children’s series I had chosen have all been around a lot longer and I had actually read them as a child and adored them.  The Mysterious Benedict Society has not been around that long and I didn’t read the books until I was already an adult.   I thought and I thought and I thought about it, and I finally came to a surprisingly wonderful conclusion–a reason to keep this wonderful book series on my list.  What is this reason you ask?  Well, The Mysterious Benedict Society books are for NERDS.  Yes! It’s true!  And as I happened to be quite a nerd as a child, and I believe that there are plenty of child nerds (and secret nerds) out there, I am confident that there will be plenty of children who find this book series as intriguing and exciting as I do! images

While it is true that The Mysterious Benedict Society and its sequels The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey, and The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner’s Dilemma do not have as much action and excitement as many book series, that is not the point of the stories.  What makes The Mysterious Benedict Society books so intriguing is the mystery. The series begins with an advertisement for “gifted” children who wish to have “special opportunities.”  The four protagonists of the books respond to this ad and are given a series of strange tests and complicated puzzles to solve.  The children use their considerable (and considerably different) talents to help them succeed on these tests and they are introduced to the (mysterious) Mr. Benedict who asks them if they will help him form a special team to save the world! Thus the Mysterious Benedict Society is born and the children begin an adventure in which they must use their minds as much as their eyes, ears, and legs to help them accomplish their great task.  I love these characters.  Reynie Muldoon is a shy orphan with a brilliant mind and an earnest heart.  Kate is a fearless former circus performer who has a bucket full of useful items and a whole lot of bravado.  Sticky Washington remembers every word of a every book he has ever read (which is quite a lot) and has an unhealthy obsession with polishing his spectacles.  Constance Contraire is the grumpiest child anyone has ever met, ever.  Together these lonely orphans (and almost-orphans) form a perfect team.  Any child who has ever felt like they are an outcast (and who hasn’t?) will love them too.  Here is a fantastic rendering of the characters by artist Priscilla Parizeau (who is not the illustrator of the books).

Art by Priscilla Parizeau

Art by Priscilla Parizeau

The four children become a family over the course of the first book, and in the subsequent books they must face adversaries who not only threaten the safety of the world, but also threaten to destroy their new-found family (which also includes the delightful adult characters Mr. Benedict, Number Two, Rhonda Kazembe, and Milligan.)  New secrets are unveiled and new mysteries must be solved in each wonderful story.  If your children are the least bit interested in puzzles, word games, or any other such “nerdy” activity, I recommend that you give these books a try.

nicholas benedictNow, you may have noticed that The Mysterious Benedict Society is a trilogy, and thus not actually considered a true book series, but I am counting the companion book, The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict as an equally important part of the series.  In this final installment, the reader is taken back to Mr. Benedict’s childhood, where he himself must use his brilliant mind to solve a mystery or two, find a hidden treasure, and make new friends (or rather, family) himself.  The book is just a delightful as the original trilogy and I would not leave it off of your reading list!  Finally, there is one more book that is part of the series, a non-fiction work entitled The Mysterious Benedict Society: Mr. Benedict’s Book of Perplexing Puzzles, Elusive Enigmas, and Curious Conundrums Although I (regretfully) haven’t had the chance to check this book out yet, according to Amazon.com the book is absolutely chock full of nerdy fun!51nRUESalJL._SY300_

This exclusive companion book to the bestselling Mysterious Benedict Society series is a mind-bending collection that will put YOU to the test! With full-color artwork throughout, this companion features ingenious new puzzles, riddles, and brainteasers compiled by Mr. Benedict himself, with the help of Reynie, Kate, Sticky, Constance, and other Society associates. Think you have what it takes to join the Mysterious Benedict Society? Open this book and find out!

-Amazon.com

I told you that The Mysterious Benedict Society books were for NERDS!  But perhaps more kids will want to become nerds, if just for a day or two, so that they can enjoy these wonderful books.  So go find the little nerd nearest and dearest to your heart and get started reading The Mysterious Benedict Society.

My Fave Book in the Series: #1 The Mysterious Benedict Societymmbs

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