Kids who are itching for a boarding-school-set fantasy-adventure in between visits to Hogwarts might pleasantly pass the time listening to this quirky tale, which is narrated with panache and a tone of childlike curiosity by Roy. When an ad reading "Are you a gifted child looking for special opportunities?" appears in a local paper, it's hard for many children to resist. But only four out of dozens pass the rigorous mind-bending tests that prove they are special and talented enough to undertake a mysterious mission at the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened (as assigned by narcoleptic benefactor Mr. Benedict). Reynie, Kate, Sticky and Constance band together using their unique gifts (be it for photographic memory, puzzle-solving or acrobatics) to uncover the dastardly plot of the Learning Institute's founder, Ledroptha Curtain. Roy's voice, masculine and scratchy, but able to reach a youthful high pitch, is an enjoyable companion for the four protagonist's exploits. Though some of Mr. Curtain's plans sound preposterously convoluted, they are humorously so. Listeners are rewarded when all wraps up nicely by program's end. Ages 10-up. (Mar.)[Page 58]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Gr 4-8-- A newspaper ad reads, "Are you a gifted child looking for special opportunities?" Many youngsters respond but only four are chosen, among them 11-year-old Reynie Muldoon who can't figure out what he has in common with his three companions. Talkative Kate carries around a bucket filled with odds and ends and can wiggle her way into or out of any situation. Sticky is a voracious reader who remembers everything. Tiny Constance is smart as a whip but cranky and stubborn. The one thing they have in common is they are all without parents--either by circumstance or by choice. When kindly Mr. Benedict recruits the youngsters to go undercover on a dangerous mission, they are confident that they are up to the challenge. Their goal is to infiltrate the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened, a school for gifted children, whose founder is sending hidden messages and hypnotizing the world population to bend to his wishes. Alone, each child is helpless, but as a team, they manage to overcome evil and save the day. First-time novelist Trenton Lee Stewart has infused his novel (Little Brown, 2007) with strong characters and an exciting plot. Del Roy's husky, grandfatherly voice works perfectly with the third person narration. Although the story is long, each short chapter ends in an exciting cliff-hanger that is sure to keep kids listening. Count on this clever, well-written title to make an appearance on both state reading lists and best books lists.--Tricia Melgaard, Centennial Middle School, Broken Arrow, OK[Page 72]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.