Reviews for Mysterious Benedict Society

Booklist Reviews 2007 January #1
/*Starred Review*/ "Are you a gifted child looking for Special Opportunities?" This curious newspaper ad catches the eye of orphan Reynie Muldoon. After taking exams that test both mind and spirit, Reynie is selected along with four other contestants--Sticky Washington, a nervous child with a photographic memory; irrepressible Kate Weatherhill; and a tiny child who lives up to her name, Constance Contraire. The children soon learn they've been chosen by mysterious Mr. Benedict for an important mission: they are to infiltrate the isolated Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened, from which messages of distrust and compliance are being broadcast into the minds of the world's citizens. Debut novelist Stewart takes some familiar conventions--among them, an orphan struggling against evil forces (Harry Potter, anyone?)--and makes them his own. But like the Potter books, his story goes beyond mere adventures, delving into serious issues, such as the way sloganeering can undermine society--or control it. Through its interesting characters, the book also tackles personal concerns: abandonment, family, loyalty, and facing one's fears. The novel could have been shortened, but Stewart writes with such attention to the intricacies of plot and personality, his story rarely feels slow; only a significant disclosure about Constance seems forced. Smart kids who like Blue Balliet's books are the natural audience for this; but, read aloud, the novel will attract many others as well. Illustrations to come. ((Reviewed January 1 & 15, 2007)) Copyright 2007 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2007 Fall
Orphan Reynie Muldoon becomes a member of a crack team tasked to infiltrate the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened. Their job: to discover the purpose behind subliminal messages emitted from the school. The children face danger and discovery, puzzles and plots, and their own mortal weaknesses. With its lively style, fresh character portrayals, and well-timed revelations, this story flies along. Copyright 2007 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2007 #2
The Mysterious Benedict Society is real flashlight-under-the-bedclothes material. Exceptional orphan Reynie Muldoon answers a newspaper ad for "special opportunities" for gifted children, and when he passes the tests-both paper exams and more esoteric ones-he becomes a member of a crack team of orphans recruited by the genial narcoleptic genius Mr. Benedict. Reynie and three other extraordinary children are to infiltrate the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened, a school run by the reclusive Mr. Ledroptha Curtain. Their job: to discover the purpose behind sinister subliminal messages emitted from the school that Mr. Benedict has detected riding piggyback on television and radio signals. Once inside the dystopically repressive Institute, the four children face danger and discovery, puzzles and plots, and their own mortal weaknesses as they confront Mr. Curtain and his plan to take over the world. With its lively style, fresh character portrayals, and well-timed revelations, this story flies past, thrilling us as it goes. Just be sure your flashlight batteries are well charged. Copyright 2007 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2007 January #1
Running long but hung about with cantrips to catch clever readers, Stewart's children's debut pits four exceptional youngsters, plus a quartet of adult allies, against a deranged inventor poised to inflict an involuntary "Improvement" on the world. Recruited by narcoleptic genius Mr. Benedict through a set of subtle tests of character, Reynie, Sticky, Kate and Constance are dispatched to the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened to find out how its brilliant founder, Ledroptha Curtain, is sending out powerful mental messages that are sowing worldwide discord. Gifted with complementary abilities that range from Reynie's brilliance with detail to Constance's universally infuriating contrariness, the four pursue their investigation between seemingly nonsensical lessons and encounters with sneering upper-class "Executives," working up to a frantic climax well-stocked with twists and sudden reversals. Low in physical violence, while being rich in moral and ethical issues, as well as in appealingly complex characters and comedy sly and gross, this Lemony Snicket-style outing sprouts hooks for hearts and minds both--and, appropriately, sample pen-and-ink illustrations that look like Brett Helquist channeling Edward Gorey. (Fantasy. 11-13) Copyright Kirkus 2006 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2006 December #3

Stewart's (Flood Summer , for adults) first book for young people begins with a bang. Gifted 11-year-old orphan Reynie Muldoon is sharing the newspaper with his tutor when she excitedly points out an ad: "Are you a gifted child looking for special opportunities?" She encourages him to take the series of tests cited in the ad, and the entire process resembles the otherworldly experience of Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory , with puzzles within puzzles and tests within testsâ€"some mental, some ethical, some physical. Ultimately three children pass the first test and go on to the next: Reynie, Sticky (born George) Washington and Kate Wetherallâ€"all of them essentially orphans. A fourth, the "very, very small" Constance Contraire, joins them later, and Mr. Benedict describes why he has brought them together. Initially, readersâ€"like the four childrenâ€"may be unsure of what to think about this mysterious gent: Is he hero or villain? Mr. Benedict has recruited them to foil an evil plan, devised by a mysterious "Sender," to brainwash the population via secret messagesâ€"delivered by childrenâ€"embedded in television and radio programs. The plot-driven novel follows many adventures among the four, whose unique talents all come into play; readers will likely warm to each of them. A couple of concluding twists involving Kate and Connie may throw readers a bit, but these do not detract from the book's entertainment value or from the author's sound overall structure. Though the book is lengthy, readers will likely enjoy getting lost in this fully imagined realm. Ages 8-12. (Mar.)

[Page 63]. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

School Library Journal Reviews 2007 March

Gr 5-9-- After Reynie Muldoon responds to an advertisement recruiting "gifted children looking for special opportunities," he finds himself in a world of mystery and adventure. The 11-year-old orphan is one of four children to complete a series of challenging and creative tasks, and he, Kate, Constance, and Sticky become the Mysterious Benedict Society. After being trained by Mr. Benedict and his assistants, the four travel to an isolated school where children are being trained by a criminal mastermind to participate in his schemes to take over the world. The young investigators need to use their special talents and abilities in order to discover Mr. Curtain's secrets, and their only chance to defeat him is through working together. Readers will challenge their own abilities as they work with the Society members to solve clues and put together the pieces of Mr. Curtain's plan. In spite of a variety of coincidences, Stewart's unusual characters, threatening villains, and dramatic plot twists will grab and hold readers' attention. Fans of Roald Dahl or Blue Balliett will find a familiar blend of kid power, clues, and adventure in Society , though its length may daunt reluctant or less-secure readers. Underlying themes about the power of media messages and the value of education add to this book's appeal, and a happy ending with hints of more adventures to come make this first-time author one to remember.--Beth L. Meister, Pleasant View Elementary School, Franklin, WI

[Page 219]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

VOYA Reviews 2007 February
Reynie, an exceptionally intelligent eleven-year-old orphan, responds to an ad seeking "gifted children for special opportunities." After testing, he is one of four youth who pass all the tests. He and the others-Sticky, Kate, and Constance-meet Mr. Benedict, who has brought them together to save the world from a plot to control it through an invention called the Whisperer, a device that works on a subliminal level to undermine the public's self-esteem and perception of safety. To complete their mission, the four children must enter the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened-conveniently situated on an island in the harbor of their town-as prospective students. The mission's success relies on the talents of each youth: Reynie's knack for leadership, Sticky's eidetic memory, Kate's energy and resourcefulness, and Constance's stubborn and contrary nature. The four call themselves the Mysterious Benedict Society, their first step in bonding as a family Stewart's style is reminiscent of authors such as Cornelia Funke or Garth Nix. His writing is clear, intelligent, and respectful of his audience. He maintains the suspense brilliantly and introduces a subtle horror in the children's situation in the school that is chilling yet not overwhelming. He laces the narrative with subtle humor on all levels. The characters are well developed, mostly appealing, and evenhanded. Ellis's line drawings add a crowning flair. Do not miss this one. Buy two copies because they will be needed.-Donna Scanlon 4Q 4P M J Copyright 2007 Voya Reviews.