The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart, illustrated by Carson Ellis.
This is one of those great books that you just want to last forever and not leave the characters behind. Reynie Muldoon is a gifted child who lives in an orphanage. He is not neglected, just lonely with only his wonderful tutor offering him conversation. When the two of them discover an ad in a newspaper looking for gifted children, Reynie jumps at the chance to be tested. This decision takes him away from the orphanage and into a world of spies, espionage, international danger and intrigue. But this book is not your normal spy novel. Take four gifted children, give them a vague mission, and turn them loose and you get this wonderful book where mysteries must be unraveled, brains must be used and there is no talk of sports or “normal” society. It’s perfectly wonderful.
The novel combines fast action with thought-provoking puzzles and enough twists and turns to give you whiplash. The storyline is compellingly parallel to today’s society with enough nuance to keep it fresh and fascinating. The writing is friendly, warm and also fresh. The author has taken traditional story features like orphanages, espionage and danger and whipped them together with modern touches to create quite a unique and interesting package.
Share this with children who enjoy mental puzzles and may even be gifted themselves. But also give it to adults who are willing to try a children’s book once in awhile. Recommended for grades 4-8. Enjoy!