The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict by Trenton Lee Stewart

The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas BenedictGoodreadsThe Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict
Series: The Mysterious Benedict Society 0.5
Souce: Purchased

Official Summary: Before there was a Mysterious Benedict Society, there was simply a boy named Nicholas Benedict. Meet the boy who started it all….

Nine-year-old Nicholas Benedict has more problems than most children his age. Not only is he an orphan with an unfortunate nose, but he also has narcolepsy, a condition that gives him terrible nightmares and makes him fall asleep at the worst possible moments. Now he’s being sent to a new orphanage, where he will encounter vicious bullies, selfish adults, strange circumstances — and a mystery that could change his life forever. Luckily, he has one important thing in his favor: He’s a genius.

On his quest to solve the mystery, Nicholas finds enemies around every corner, but also friends in unexpected places — and discovers along the way that the greatest puzzle of all is himself.

ReviewThe Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict is a great follow-up novel (in terms of writing order; this is a prequel!) to Trenton Lee Stewart’s Mysterious Benedict Society series.  The tone is fun, quirky, and clever—a perfect light read that will both entertain and challenge the mind.  This book features a single mystery, that of a hidden treasure, rather than a series of puzzles, but there are just enough clues to encourage readers to try to solve it along with Nicholas.  The solution was fairly obvious to me from the start, but younger readers (the intended audience) will probably find it right on their level, challenging enough to be worth their effort but not so much it becomes frustrating.

The book is thicker than many middle grade novels, but the pace moves along steadily.  There is lots of action, and a few scenes that are laugh out loud funny, with a bit of character development thrown in on the side.  The orphaned Nicholas, used to knowing selfish adults and bullying children, must decide if there are people in the world worthy of his trust.  He also must decide what his priorities are.  If he finds the treasure, will he keep it for himself, help just a few friends, or find it in himself to become more generous?  As you might be gathering, there is also a sprinkling of life lessons in this text, but good ones—optimistic and never preachy.

There are a few tie-ins to the Mysterious Benedict Society that readers of the series will delight in recognizing—things about his past and his character that Mr. Benedict mentions in the series.  Stewart is not quite as self-referential as I was expecting, however.  This book also does not reach quite the level of suspense as the other three.  Many times I was anticipating something to go horribly wrong that never did.  Middle grade books don’t have to be dark, but readers could handle a little more danger than Stewart seems to be giving them credit for.

This is a great addition to the series that no Mysterious Benedict fan will want to miss.  Nicholas himself is charming, precocious, and fascinating, and it is clear how such an extraordinary education leads him to do further extraordinary things.  (Note: This will also read as a great introduction to the series, for those who did not read The Mysterious Benedict Society first.  Either order of reading will work!)

Published: April 10, 2012

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