by Judith Hayn
Stewart, Trenton. (2012). The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict. New York, NY: Little, Brown, and Co.
The Mysterious Benedict Society series, launched in 2007, introduced young readers to a intriguing set of adolescent fighters of injustice. Their mentor Nicholas Benedict is the brilliant mastermind who organizes and directs the group, but who is he really? This prequel provides the answer. Nicholas is indeed an orphan, and this tale begins with his incarceration in a new orphanage at age 9. He is an odd lad with disconcerting narcolepsy that will dog him all his life; he falls asleep when emotionally bombarded.
At Rothschild’s End, a wealthy magnate bequeathed that an orphanage be maintained in honor of his saintly wife. The Manor has fallen on hard times, and Mr. Collum, the new director, is determined to rectify financial chaos. Nicholas arrives to become the brunt of teasing and torment by a fiendish group of bullies called the Spiders, but he also finds friendship with John Cole, another orphan. Nick manages to survive by his wit and cunning while the tension surrounding each encounter with the Spiders is spellbinding.
Stewart includes essentials of the enthralling adventure story—a dark, foreboding Manor that is literally crumbling around the orphans; a locked room for imprisoning Nicholas to contain the impact of his sleeping disorder; a secret treasure that could save everyone; and a spooky, undiscovered observatory. All combine to provide Nicholas with plenty of impediments as he races to find that treasure ahead of Mr. Collum. Along the way, he discovers the value of true friendships and the inner strength that he will need as the future patriarch of the Mysterious Benedict Society. As the others in the series, this book displays Stewart’s witty and charming style as the suspense mesmerizes readers.
Read an excerpt from the book at the Little, Brown and Company website.
Dr. Judith A. Hayn is an Associate Professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
This article is part of a series from the Special Interest Group Network on Adolescent Literature (SIGNAL).