I’ve been trying to finish up The History of the Medieval World by Susan Wise Bauer these past few weeks. It’s very good and I enjoy it, but it’s dense reading. So I’ve needed some other things to read while I’m working on it. I decided to read the second book in the Mysterious Benedict Society series by Trenton Lee Stewart since John is currently reading the first one, loving it and wanting to read more. I had read the first one myself a few years ago just for fun. I’m not going to fool myself into thinking that I can read every book my kids read and I don’t really think I need to. But it is fun to be able to talk to him about books.
This book starts a few months after the end of the first book. The four members of the MBS: Reynie, Kate, Sticky and Constance are meeting for a reunion. Mr. Benedict has arranged for a treat for them, a scavenger hunt around the world that will require them to use all their special skills. However, the evil Mr. Curtain has kidnapped Mr. Benedict and his assistant Number Two and is holding them hostage. The four kid heroes sneak away from the adults and set off on the scavenger hunt to save Mr. Benedict.
I’ve enjoyed this series quite a bit so far. I liked the first half of the first book the best. In it, the kids are all going through series of ingenious tests to see if they are to be chosen for a special very dangerous assignment. I loved the descriptions of the tests and how each kid has a different style of giftedness and how they each approached the tests differently. The second half of the book detailing the dangerous assignment was good, but a more typical adventure book. This second book combines the two themes more seamlessly. As the kids embark on their “perilous journey” they have to solve the clues. The clues are really puzzles and are fun to try and figure out along with the kids. Similar to the first book each child brings a different set of talents and sees the puzzles differently.
In this book, there is a little more character development. However, for the most part these are plot driven books, probably one of the reasons they are popular with kids in the upper elementary age group. A lot happens and they are exciting. One slight criticism I had about this book is that it involves one of the kids developing somewhat psychic abilities, which helps often with the plot. In some ways I saw this as an easy way out, but it’s probably no different than giving you hero magic powers as is the case in many other books of this type. In defense the author has an interesting way of explaining this ability and doesn’t call it being psychic.
Another criticism I’ve seen elsewhere is that they involve too much danger for the kids. Mr. Curtain and his henchmen (the Ten Men) are evil and don’t care about harming children in truly awful ways. But they are portrayed as evil. H. thought the first book was creepy as it dealt with the concept of mind control. I think that’s a valid point, but I think as adults we are more bothered by reading about kids being harmed and put in danger than kids are. I think about many of my favorite books as a kid (the Dark is Rising series, Trixie Belden mysteries) and they often involved kids or teenagers being put in situations where they face real danger and are the hero. Other series like Harry Potter or the Narnia series that are equally popular among kids have the same theme. When kids read these they see a character that is like them and who is doing amazing things. Who wouldn’t like that?
I have the third book on coming to me at the library now. I’m looking forward to reading it. And also to sharing all three with John.