Been There, Read That: A Zealous Genius and Four Brilliant Children

Quick Summary of The Mysterious Benedict Society Series:

This four-book series follows the travels of four immensely talented young children. A story yet unparalleled or matched by any other children’s author, The Mysterious Benedict Society depicts children as brave, intelligent, silly, and most importantly, good. Unlike many children’s stories written by adults, this story does not question the abilities of the children, or their drive to do what they believe to be right. In fact, many of the characters’ childish abilities aid them in their journeys to save their friends, as well as the metaphorical ones of learning more about their abilities. Throughout the series, all of the children go through physical and emotional changes that impact their lives and personalities. Yet, throughout all of their journeys, these kids never lose the thing they believe to be most important to them—each other’s friendship.

The main characters of the series.
The main characters of the series.

The Children:

These children are perhaps the most intricately described characters that I have ever come across in any form of writing, including adult novels.

Reynie Muldoon:

Reynie Muldoon, the main character of the story, is intelligent. But then again, so are all of the kids. Reynie’s real ability is that he is wonderful at puzzles, questions, and clues. As the children face Ledroptha Curtain (the series’ constant villain) in several scenarios, he is their code-breaker. In addition, he is very careful of other’s feelings and is often the most likable character in the book due to his concern for the people around him.

Kate Wetherall:

Perhaps the most charismatic individual in the story, Kate Wetherall is portrayed as a careful and athletic young girl who is capable of holding the group of friends together emotionally. She is also capable of taking charge of any environmental or physical problems that seem to get in her way. From climbing enormous heights without rope to running long distances with Constance on her back, she does not shy away from a challenge.

Constance Contraire:

As previously mentioned, Constance Contraire can often be found catching a ride on Kate’s back. This isn’t due to laziness (well, most of the time it isn’t) but rather due to the fact that she has very short legs—because she is three. Constance is moody, easily fatigued, constantly hungry, and above all, enormously gifted. She has the ability to predict things. And not in a “the weather will be rainy today” kind of way. She can tell what a person is thinking, what they are about to say or do, how a situation will end, and she can analyze a situation to understand a person’s actions. This makes her very annoying to her friends, as it is difficult for them to keep things from her, but it also makes her very useful when the Mysterious Benedict Society is under attack and needs to know what is going on.

George Washington:

Finally, there is George Washington, known to his comrades simply as “Sticky” due to his ability to pick up information and have it stick in his head. Unfortunately, Sticky is an easily dislikable character because he can come across as very cowardly and vain when it comes to his intellectual abilities. But when push comes to shove, it is very clear that he is willing to sacrifice everything for his friends, and he is often the glue that keeps the group together when Kate is too busy to be.

The four books in the series.
The four books in the series.

The Mysterious Benedict Society:

In the first series in the sci-fi/action/adventure story The Mysterious Benedict Society, four incredibly talented children are hired by an aged genius, Mr. Benedict, who is affected by narcolepsy. His aims? To stop an evil and callous man—known as Ledroptha Curtain—who wishes to indoctrinate the human race into a fear he created using a machine called “The Whisperer” for political and monetary gain. The children face intellectual and physical challenges while they try to take down Curtain and reveal his guilt to the Government.

The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey:

In the second book, The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey, the children travel to Holland to aid Mr. Benedict in his search to find a plant which Mr. Benedict’s parents may have discovered that supposedly has the ability to cure narcolepsy. However, Ledroptha Curtain, who also suffers from narcolepsy, is in a race to find it before Mr. Benedict does.

The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner’s Dilemma:

The third book, The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner’s Dilemma, is more of a metaphorical journey and tends to favor the storyline of Constance and her newfound abilities of prediction. The children spend most of their time in Mr. Benedict’s house trying to find a way to both protect “The Whisperer” from Ledroptha Curtain and to find a cure for Mr. Benedict’s narcolepsy. However, throughout the book all of the children are put through emotional journeys. Reynie has to come to terms with soon leaving his friends, Sticky has to overcome his fears of competition in order to pursue his dreams of success, and Kate has to accept fears about her relationship with her father.

Final Thoughts:

When one considers the excitement and terror that occurs in the first book (when the children visit the boarding academy), as well as the strength and courage required to do what has to be done by the Benedict Society in the second book, the third book is a bit of a letdown. However, the last book, which focuses on the childhood of Mr. Benedict himself, is the one book in the series that I have not yet read. I hope this book will redeem the series because after creating such an intricate story, I expected a lot more from the storyline in the third book. Although you do learn more about the characters and their lives in The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner’s Dilemma, it doesn’t sufficiently replace the expected plot line where there is a really large climax and then the children figure out something about themselves and their lives, then end up back at Mr. Benedict’s headquarters. This book does not follow the previous outline and is kind of unsettling.

I would like to mention that I enjoyed this series immensely and recommend it to anyone of any age!

Picture of the children by: StreakSketcher on DeviantArt