The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey

I have always been a fan of wacky tales of bunches of kids together. I am also a long time fan of stories of kids with Special Powers, among them the original Witch Mountain books by Alexander Key (the movies were just ok). What I enjoy about this sequel to The Mysterious Benedict Society is that it combines both of these features. Four kids with extraordinary (and complementary) talents have to save the world, this time by saving Mr. Benedict himself from his evil twin. Author Trenton Lee Stewart writes in self-consciously unrealistic style, which always helps me with the suspension of disbelief (that I was complaining about in reading City of Ember). Because, if the author knows it's just a story, somehow I get very free and easy with belief/disbelief. And the kids are fun to read about.

The four stunningly gifted characters are back, again, and if the first book was Reynie's book, this one belongs to Sticky if it belongs to anyone. Reynie is still the central problem-solver of the four, whose gift for seeing through and around any apparent rules allows him to synthesize some of the best escapes from scrapes. However, Sticky's incredible memory features centrally in this book, though his accomplishments are now accompanied by a rather over-inflated sense of himself, which becomes annoying to his compatriots. Sticky wrestles with his pride throughout in a fine sub-plot to the larger adventures. Constance is only 3, with the vocabulary of a 10-year-old; her actions in this book are still amusingly (if not realistically) contrary, and we're given more insight into the "pattern recognition" that constitutes the core of her special abilities. Kate and her amazing bucket are back as well, and her feats of physical prowess save the day more than once. It's easy to see how gender and age expectations are shuffled about a bit, and that's refreshing.

While the previous book was set in a mysterious land where an "emergency" kept the entire society prisoner, this time the foursome treks to Europe via ship, to Portugal specifically, following the clues their benefactor Mr. Benedict has left for them along the way. Mr. B's evil twin, Mr. Curtain, has foiled Mr. B's plans, capturing him and secreting him away to an island purported to grow a rare and very valuable plant.

Nope, not a word of it is believable. And, yes, it's a great read for puzzle-solving inclined young readers. They have to be dedicated readers, as Stewart's books are written with a post-Harry-Potter reading audience in mind, at easily over 300p each.

Megan was right to recommend this one to me--thanks Megan!

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