When we had our Crazy Over Cybils theme a couple of months ago, I told Myra I intended to post a review of Trenton Lee Stewart’s The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict. She advised me to delay the post and save it for our Oddballs and Misfits theme (currently being featured on our site). What she said turned out to be the smartest idea ever.
Trenton Lee Stewart, known for his New York Times bestseller series, The Mysterious Benedict Society, is a children’s writer close to the hearts of the GB ladies (Myra, Iphigene, and I). The beloved series was among the books that we discussed over Seattle’s Best coffee when Myra and I were still in the Philippines. The story of Reynie, Kate, Sticky, and Constance who named themselves The Mysterious Benedict Society became an instant hit. (THIS SERIES IS A MUST-READ!)
More than two years after the release of the third book, The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner’s Dilemma, a fourth book was published. I wish I was able to capture the surprised, oh-my-God look on my face when I saw The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict displayed in the New Reads section of Barnes & Noble.
The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict is the fourth installment – a prequel, above all things! – to The Mysterious Benedict Society series. It takes readers back (way, way back) to Mr. Benedict’s younger years when he lived in an orphanage referred to as The Manor.
The story is 470 pages long but because Trenton Lee Stewart is an excellent storyteller it only felt about 300 pages long for me (maybe even less). I found myself flipping through the pages and wanting to read more every time a chapter ended. As with the other Mysterious Benedict Society books, Trenton Lee Stewart ended each chapter with a statement full of mystery and suspense.
Reading this book made me feel the same kind of joy I felt when I read Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl series. Aside from Trenton Lee Stewart’s gift with words, I enjoyed seeing more of Mr. Benedict’s life, his thoughts, and emotions. Before the release of this book, Mr. Benedict remained a man of secrets and mystery.
“Out from behind the desk where he’d been sitting, hidden by the piles of books, appeared a bespectacled, green-eyed man in a green plaid suit. His thick white hair was shaggy and mussed, his nose was rather large and lumpy like a vegetable, and although it was clear he had recently shaved, he appeared to have done so without benefit of a mirror, for here and there upon his neck and chin were nicks from a razor, and occasional white whiskers that he’d missed altogether. This was Mr. Benedict.” — p. 71, The Mysterious Benedict Society
More than Nicholas Benedict’s extraordinary education, the book sheds some light on Nicholas’ giftedness and how it has affected his life. Although our young hero was grateful for his gift, Nicholas could not help but feel gloomy about being peculiar. Since he could remember Nicholas has a hard time getting adopted because of his oddities. At the Manor, he has never felt so lonely and he was very uncomfortable at the idea of being shunned. This book shows readers that life for the gifted child is not always fun. Gifted children like Nicholas Benedict could relate to his story or, at the very least, understand what he was going through.
During the last few chapters, I felt my eyes well up with tears and found myself gasping for air. (It’s
your fault, Trenton Lee Stewart!) The book is so beautifully written that I immediately grabbed the first book in the series and started reading it again. Nicholas Benedict has my heart forever.
“If Nicholas Benedict truly had been able to see the future, his own would have startled him to sleep at once, for he would have seen that he was destined to do things far greater than he ever could have imagined – that wonderful and amazing people would one day be drawn to him like metal to a magnet; that together with Nicholas they would form a most unusual kind of family; and that together, during one of the world’s darkest, most dangerous hours, they would change the course of history… For now he was simply a little boy on a cot, trying to fight off sleep as he had done countless times before…” — p. 469, The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict
A FEW WORDS OF CAUTION…
DO NOT READ THIS BOOK until you’ve read the first three. It is only when you read it in this order that you would thoroughly enjoy the entire series. =)