The Mysterious Benedict Society
|Author||Trenton Lee Stewart|
|Cover artist||Carson Ellis|
|Series||The Mysterious Benedict Society|
|Publisher||Little, Brown and Company|
|March 7th 2008|
|LC Class||PZ7.S8513 My 2007|
|Followed by||The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey|
The Mysterious Benedict Society is a novel written by Trenton Lee Stewart and illustrated by Carson Ellis, first published in 2007. It tells the story of four gifted children: Reynie Muldoon, George "Sticky" Washington, Kate Wetherall, and Constance Contraire, who form the "Mysterious Benedict Society" and are sent to investigate an institution called L.I.V.E. (the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened), run by a man named Ledroptha Curtain.
Reynard "Reynie" Muldoon is an orphaned boy who lives in the Stonetown Orphanage. One morning at breakfast, his tutor "Miss Perumal" notices an advertisement in the newspaper targeted towards gifted children. Reynie follows up and finds himself presented with a series of complex puzzles and odd tests. He passes all of the tests and qualifies to help Mr. Nicholas Benedict. He meets three other gifted children: George "Sticky" Washington, Kate Wetherall, and Constance Contraire. Mr. Benedict, the organizer of the tests, is assisted by his subordinates Number Two, Rhonda Kazembe, and Milligan, the secret agent that turned into a security guard for Benedict.
They explain that a mysterious threat plagues the world in the form of secret messages transmitted into people's minds via television and radio signals. These messages have created the illusion of international panic known as "The Emergency". Mr. Benedict invited the children to form a team to stop the Sender from sending them. The messages originate at the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened "L.I.V.E." The children join the Institute as students (and spies), and discover astonishing facts that help them complete their mission.
- Reynard "Reynie" Muldoon is an eleven-year-old boy living at Stonetown Orphanage. He is talented at problem-solving, logical deduction, and perceiving people's emotions. His intelligence results in the assignment of a special tutor at the orphanage, Miss Perumal who later adopts him. Reynie looks between the lines, observing and questioning, and solves most problems by looking for a "puzzle" within the situation. He is described as an especially average-looking boy with average brown hair, average pale complexion, and average clothes.
- George "Sticky" Washington, is an eleven-year-old, bald, tea-skinned boy. He has a great memory (everything "sticks" in his head, hence his nickname) and a talent for reading quickly. He is timid and nervous and resorts to polishing his glasses in stressful situations. He ran away from his parents because they forced him into academic competitions and he thought they no longer wanted him around.
- Kate Wetherall is a twelve-year-old girl who is sporty, dexterous, strong, creative, cheerful and optimistic. After being orphaned, she ran away to the circus. She has blonde hair, blue eyes, and fair skin. She carries a red bucket containing various items which she thinks are useful, including an army knife, a flashlight, a pen, a rope, a bag of marbles, a slingshot, a spool of clear fishing twine, a horseshoe magnet and a spyglass disguised as a kaleidoscope. Kate's mother died when she was a baby and believes her father left her (when she was young) because of her mother's tragic death. She loves to call herself, "the Great Kate Weather Machine".
- Constance Contraire is a small, extremely intelligent, and stubborn girl. She has the ability to write clever and brutal poems, and her ultra-sensitive mind is most affected by the Whisperer. By the novel's end, she is also Mr. Benedict's adopted daughter and also reveals that she is only 3 years old.
- Milligan is a former government agent and current guard for the children, Rhonda, Number Two, and Mr. Benedict. He is a sad and somber man, even described as a "scarecrow" due to his shabby and depressing demeanor. His sadness is attributed to his kidnapping by secret agents after which he was brainwashed and lost his memory. Although unsure of his actual name, "Milligan" was the first word he remembered on regaining consciousness, and he adopted it as his name. He later recovers his memory and remembers / discovers he is Kate's father. Milligan also has flax blond hair and ocean blue eyes.
- Mr. Nicholas Benedict is a middle-aged man who recruits the children. He is the one who discovered the plans of his identical twin brother, Ledroptha Curtain, from whom he was separated just after birth because their parents had died. Mr. Benedict suffers from narcolepsy, which causes him to fall asleep when experiencing strong emotions (usually laughter).
- Ledroptha Curtain is the antagonist of the story and the head of the "Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened", or L.I.V.E. and "The Emergency" are his tools for creating mass panic and destabilizing the world's major governments. Mr. Curtain created the mind-control and mind-message transmitter device called "the Whisperer", which utilizes children's minds to spread propaganda and subliminal messages through television as part of a scheme to usurp control of the entire world and be declared "Minister And Secretary of all the Earth's Regions" (M.A.S.T.E.R.). He is also revealed to be Mr. Benedict's long-lost twin brother. He uses a modified wheelchair to get around and wears mirrored sunglasses in order to conceal his narcolepsy. Mr. Curtain's narcolepsy is triggered by anger, as a foil to his twin's laughter-induced narcolepsy.
- S.Q. Pedalian is an Executive working for Mr. Curtain. He is dim-witted and clumsy but is the only Executive who is kind to the Mysterious Benedict Society. He is also somewhat oblivious to the evils of Mr. Curtain, the Institute, and the Whisperer's effects on the world's inhabitants.
- Jackson and Jillson are the Head Executives at the Institute and are noted for their unkind ways. Jackson has icy blue eyes, is stockily built, and has a nose long and sharp like a knife. Jillson is six feet tall, has small piggy eyes, and "arms like a monkey"
- Martina Crowe is originally a Messenger and later Executive at the Institute. She despises the members of the Mysterious Benedict Society because she feels threatened by their intelligence, but holds particular enmity for Kate.
- Miss Perumal is Reynie's tutor. She is Indian and is intelligent and friendly. She eventually adopts Reynie in the end.
- Mr. Rutger is the Stonetown Orphanage director. Although not unkind, he is blinded by greed to Reynie's obvious higher educational needs. He gets paid for each student so he doesn't let Reynie go to an advanced school.
- The Helpers make food, do laundry, and perform other manual labor tasks at the Institute. They are not allowed to talk to any students at L.I.V.E. or make eye contact. They share the same vacant, sad expressions as Milligan, and Reynie soon discovers that the Helpers may have been brought to the Institute against their wills and have been brainwashed.
- The Recruiters kidnap children for the Institute, to be used for Mr. Curtain's Whisperer messages. In the following books The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey and The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemma, they evolve into the Ten Men, so named for their ten ways of hurting people.
- Number Two and Rhonda Kazembe are the over-protective assistants of Mr. Benedict. They have passed all his tests, and now do everything he asks them to do (except to let him stand up without at least one of them in the room). Rhonda is a Zambian woman who makes a convincing 12-year-old in height even though she's in her twenties. Number Two can mostly be noted for her resemblance of a pencil when wearing her yellow coat, with yellow skin and red hair.
The Mysterious Benedict Society has received generally positive reviews. Many critics praised the enigmatic plot and puzzles included in the storyline; journalist Michele Norris, writing for NPR, said, "Almost everything inside this book is an enigma." Additionally, the ethical decisions and moral lessons contained within the book were praised. Kirkus Reviews said that the book was "rich in moral and ethical issues." Rick Riordan, author of the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series, wrote, "I enjoyed it very much -- great cast of characters, lots of cool puzzles and mysteries. The book made me feel nostalgic, because it reminded me of some of the better children’s books I grew up with, like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Phantom Tollbooth."
The Mysterious Benedict Society was a New York Times bestseller in 2008 and won a 2007 Booklist Editors' Choice: Books for Youth award, a 2008 Notable Children's Book for Middle Readers award from the American Library Association, the 2008 E.B. White Read Aloud Award for Older Readers, and a 2008 Texas Lone Star Reading List award.
Three sequels were published in 2008, 2009, and 2019: The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey, The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemma, and The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Riddle of Ages.
A supplementary book, The Mysterious Benedict Society: Mr. Benedict's Book of Perplexing Puzzles, Elusive Enigmas, and Curious Conundrums, was also released.
- Norris, Michele (29 February 2012). "March Book Pick: 'The Mysterious Benedict Society'". NPR. Retrieved 15 August 2020.
- THE MYSTERIOUS BENEDICT SOCIETY by Trenton Lee Stewart, Carson Ellis. Kirkus Reviews.
- Riordan, Rick (8 November 2013). "Rick Riordan's review of The Mysterious Benedict Society (The Mysterious Benedict Society, #1)". Goodreads. Retrieved 16 August 2020.
- "BEST SELLERS | Children's Books". The New York Times. 11 September 2008. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 16 August 2020.
- "Booklist Editors' Choice: Books for Youth, 2007". Booklist. 1 January 2008. Retrieved 16 August 2020.
- "ALSC announces 2008 Notable Children's Books". American Library Association. 29 January 2008. Retrieved 16 August 2020.
- "E.B. White Read Aloud Award Winners". Goodreads. Retrieved 16 August 2020.
- "Past Lists". Texas Library Association. Retrieved 16 August 2020.
- "The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict by Trenton Lee Stewart". Penguin Random House. Retrieved 16 August 2020.