I almost decided to skip out on writing about this particular book here, mostly because I feel like I have properly expressed our affection for The Mysterious Benedict Society books all summer long here, and maybe you all want to hear about something new and different. But then The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict by Trenton Lee Stewart turned out to be such a fantastic story that I talked myself out of being innovative and interesting. I'm just going to be honest instead. We like what we like around here and apparently what we really like is all things Benedict Society.
The decision to even pick up The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict was not an obvious one, despite our enjoyment of The Mysterious Benedict Society trilogy. I somehow had a difficult time imagining that a book about Mr. Benedict himself would be as compelling and rich and just plain exciting as the books about his rag tag team of genius orphans and their unusual heroes' quests. But the book, which chronicles Mr. Benedict's own formative childhood experience living in an orphanage with a mysterious past, turned out to be so much better than I could have imagined. And that is something that I love in a good book: when the plot makes twists and takes turns that are totally outside the realm of what I might have expected. There is a certain joy in a book that contains a myriad of surprises, but this is especially true when those individual surprises add up to a story that is wholly satisfying.
For her part, the avid kid reader 'round these parts absolutely loved this book. She was also skeptical to begin with, in part because I think it seemed slightly odd to her to read about the childhood of a character who is so much like a parent to the kids who are the true stars of the other books. But it didn't take long for her to be totally invested in the story, and to be completely taken in by the cleverness, loyalty, and kindness of Nicholas Benedict the boy. Throughout Nicholas' adventure in solving the mystery of the orphanage, and in improving the lives of those who he lives there with, there are glimpses of the Mr. Benedict that he will become. If anything, reading about Mr. Benedict as a boy makes the Mr. Benedict of the trilogy come alive even more. By the time we finished this book, the fact that it was the final Benedict book out at the moment was very much on her mind.
"I wonder," she said, "if I could write to the author and tell him that he should make more of these books..."
Fine by me, kid.