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.
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 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.
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.
Gr 5-9--Everyone who has read and enjoyed The Mysterious Benedict Society (Little, Brown, 2007) will remember the test that Reynie, Kate, Constance, and Sticky take at its beginning. In this book, readers dive into puzzles apparently designed by the mysterious Mr. Benedict and his colleagues. As the subtitle suggests, it's a collection of word games, and challenges involving names and numbers, shapes, and diagrams. Sudyka's illustrations, many of them in color, are everywhere, and are often essential to the solutions. An example is "Mr. Curtain's Controls," which features a picture of the unmarked, but multishaped and multicolored, buttons on the villain's wheelchair control panel and a set of seemingly unrelated clues, with the question: "Which is the OFF button?" Quotes from the characters in the series are everywhere, too, which suggests that this book will be of interest primarily to those who have read at least one of the books.--Walter Minkel, Austin Public Library, TX[Page 188]. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.