Sunday, 23 April 2017

The Mysterious Benedict Society Series Book Review


We don't regularly review fiction books, but I've just read the Mysterious Benedict Society trilogy by Trenton Lee Stewart to my children and it's fantastic. The books feature four children with unusual skills who are brought together to prevent a catastrophe.

I came across the series because it features logic puzzles that the children must solve.  In fact there's an accompanying puzzle book that we've also been working through. Logical thinking is an important skills for modern kids.

We're publishing this post on World Book and Copyright Day in the US (yes, World Book day is on different dates in different countries!) and World Book Night in the UK.

My children are 10 and 8 and often prefer to read to themselves these days because they can go faster than me reading aloud and don't have to read the same book. But once I started reading the first book in the Mysterious Benedict Society series they didn't want me to stop. We ended up reading for 2 hours most evenings before bed and during family car and train journeys.

The books reference and make use of classic logic puzzles and codes. Morse Code features heavily in the first book and the final book features the eponymous Prisoner's Dilemma from game theory. This might be reason enough for us to enjoy the books. Lots of interesting discussions have followed on from the puzzles that are encountered in the book.

We really liked that the puzzles are often not solved immediately in the book so there's time for the reader(s) to try and solve them before they see the solution.

The Mysterious Benedict Society: Mr. Benedict's Book of Perplexing Puzzles, Elusive Enigmas, and Curious Conundrums is a nicely presented puzzle activity book that is allowing us to eke out the MBS experience a bit further.

There's also a website that includes some MBS-themed games which are quite clever.

We also have the urge to learn Morse Code in case we ever need to communicate over distances using mirrors and torches or tap out messages on pipework or using electronic beeps.

The logic puzzle aspect of the series really appealed to us but what kept us coming back is the tight plotting. In between reading sessions I found myself wondering about what would happen next. And my children suddenly developed the ability to get ready for bed much faster. My older son managed to keep himself awake for a bit longer each night (he loves his sleep!)

The characters are fantastic and stereotypes are avoided. Each of the four children has different abilities and quirks. Technology is used by the evil characters but also by the good ones.

As the end of the third book approached we all had that feeling of not wanting to stop reading but not wanting to finish the book. I didn't tell my kids that there's a prequel until the end. My younger son wanted to write to Trenton Lee Stewart and tell him to get on with writing more books ;-)

As it happens Trenton Lee Stewart published a new book, The Secret Keepers, not in the same series, last year and it's just about to come out in paperbook. We'll read the rest of the books and then my son can write that letter!

If you've missed out on this series or you have children or grandchildren just reaching the right age, around 8-12, then we can highly recommend it. The trilogy plus the prequel is available as a reasonably priced boxed set and the puzzle book makes a great add-on.

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