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I Read It!::The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

ireaditI love the I Read It!  challenge over at 5 Minutes for Books, and I almost wish it came around more frequently than just the months which contain five Tuesdays.  I’m just kidding, sort of—I’m not sure I could handle the pressure.  Reading my selection for this month’s I Read It!, though, was no pressure at all–it is that good.

I picked up The Mysterious Benedict Society because really, how could I not?  I mean, Carrie goes on and on about it here, and then she continues here.  Sherry of Semicolon read it when it first came out (of course) and loved it.  Stephanie really liked itJanet did, tooDitto The Correspondent.    I haven’t find anyone who doesn’t like it. 

Add me to the long list of MBS lovers!  When I first started reading this book and grew acquainted with the very eclectic quartet of children that makes up the Mysterious Benedict Society, I was reminded of The View from Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg and The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin.  The similarities grew as I read further and learned more about the mystery the children were to solve.  Although it has been a long time since I’ve read either Konigsburg’s or Raskin’s book, what I remember about them is a team of children who are thrown together for reasons unknown to them to achieve something very difficult, if not impossible.  The camaraderie that grows out of their unlikely circumstance is one of the real “messages” of the book (if we must find “messages”).  Likewise for MBS, I think.   The fact that we, the readers, get to go on an amazing, entertaining, funny, suspenseful adventure along with these children is “extra.” 

The good vs. evil theme in this book leaves so much room for interpretation, and as a Christian, I cannot help but see all kinds of parallels.  However, I will spare you the details here (besides, Carrie did a great job of explaining these already).  I can see all kinds of possibilities for reading this as a family and then discussing it.  I must say that this book caused me, a (mostly) adult, to once again think about technology and the impact it has on our society and on me, individually.  What I find when I take a long, hard look at this is not all good, I assure you. 

Another thing I thought about as I read The Mysterious Benedict Society is the movie potential in this book.  I am not usually a fan of books-to-movies, really, and I can’t imagine that this one would fare very well in the translation.  Oh, I think Hollywood could do a fabulous job on all the adventure and action (just imagine Kate, y’all!), but I’m afraid the much more subtle parts of story (which are the best parts, after all) would be lost, or worse, reinterpreted.  Does anyone know if a movie is in the works?

I laughed out loud several times while reading this book.  I’ve noticed that this is something I almost only do while reading children’s books.  What does this say about me?  What does this say about adult literature?  🙂  This is the first passage I marked:

“I’m sorry, Reynard,” the woman interrupted, tugging unsuccessfully on a closed window.  “I’m afraid there isn’t a telephone.”

“But Miss Perumal–”

“Reynard,” the woman said with a smile, “I’m sure you can make do without one, can’t you?   Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must sneak out the back door.  These windows appear to have been painted shut.”

“Sneak out?  But why?”

“I’ve learned from experience.  Any moment now, some of these children’s parents will come storming in to demand explanations.  Unfortunately, I have none to give them.  Therefore, off I go.  I’ll see you this afternoon.  Don’t be late!”

And with that, away she went.  (14)

I had immediate visions of myself as a first year teacher when I read that one.  😉

If you haven’t read The Mysterious Benedict Society yet, don’t put it off any longer.  It really is that good!

(Oh, and be sure to visit 5 Minutes for Books for more I Read It! posts.)

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7 Responses

  1. Very interesting idea — a movie. As long as they don’t turn it into something deadly serious, I would love to see that too! To me the wit is a huge part of what made this so enjoyable.

    Thanks for a great review! Between you and The Correspondent, I’m getting antsy to read the sequel.

  2. What a superb review, Amy! I really love the way you summed it up … I had a difficult time condensing the big picture into a few paragraphs.

    Like you, I wondered about a movie, too. While reading the book, I noticed several scenes that would lend themselves to the big screen. I fear, however, that Hollywood’s version wouldn’t match the one I saw in my head as I enjoyed the book.

    I’m interested in checking out The View from Saturday and The Westing Game, especially if they’re similar to MBS. I’ve never heard of either.

    p.s. – Thanks for the hat tip. 🙂

  3. *Grinning merrily!*

  4. I’m glad you liked it. Lots of fun, wasn’t it?

  5. Thanks for joining in (and you actually might get your wish about I Read It! appearing more often). We might be reworking our schedule at the beginning of the year.

    I’m jealous! I’m jealous that you’ve read it. I just haven’t yet — sigh.

    You know the 3rd one comes out very very soon, right??

  6. […] I did manage to read a few relatively new titles from these genres which this year which I loved.  The Mysterious  Benedict Society and Volume One of The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing are two books I won’t soon […]

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