Are you a gifted child looking for special opportunities?
When this peculiar ad appears in the newspaper, dozens of children enroll to take a series of...moreAre you a gifted child looking for special opportunities?
When this peculiar ad appears in the newspaper, dozens of children enroll to take a series of mysterious, mind-bending tests. (And you, dear reader, can test your wits right alongside them.) But in the end just four very special children will succeed. Their challenge: to go on a secret mission that only the most intelligent and resourceful children could complete. With their newfound friendship at stake, will they be able to pass the most important test of all?
Welcome to the mysterious Benedict Society.
If I had to choose a book series that I really thought has what it takes to be "a new Harry Potter," my first thought would be The Mysterious Benedict Society.
While there's no magic and there are only three books in the series, it's written so much more closely to JKR's gold standard of clever, respectful prose than any of the other MG series that people name. While I love Percy Jackson, Rick Riordan's writing comes across like he doesn't respect children, and is overtly aware of writing "a children's book" instead of a book that happens to be appropriate/thematic for kids. The Mysterious Benedict Society might be a bit advanced and a bit grim, but its young protagonists are treated with the same considered care that JKR put into Harry, Ron, Hermione, Neville, and Ginny, and for that, TMBS gets my vote.
Furthermore, it's REFRESHING to see such an epic series without any magic! Reynie, Sticky, Kate, and Constance get by on their skills, wit, and intelligence alone, and it's a fascinating read. (Although, slight spoiler, we never get a clear answer in the end whether one of them might just have a little magic in them after all.) The series purports itself to be about gifted children, and they are.
Too often, book characters are described as gifted/advanced/intelligent/special and don't come across that way on the page, but Stewart does a wonderful job characterizing all four protagonists as gifted in their own ways.
Reynie Muldoon, our lead character, excels in logic. George "Sticky" Washington has an eidetic memory. Kate Wetherall, who prefers to call herself The Great Kate Weather Machine and is hoping it will catch on, has kinesthetic intelligence in spades (and a handy-dandy bucket). And Constance Contraire... well, she's stubborn.
A part of what I like about TMBS is that, like Inception, its hypotheses and assertions about memory are utilized within the text to subtly illustrate their effectiveness. Have you seen Inception? (Of course you have.)
What did you think just now?
You're waiting for a train, a train that will take you far away. You know where you hope this train will take you, but you don't know for sure. But it doesn't matter. How can it not matter to you where that train will take you?
That principle is the core idea behind TMBS as well: you can package a multitude of concepts, images, ideas, and thoughts into one short phrase.
And use that phrase to control someone.
Or maybe, a lot of someones.
Maybe... the world?
That is exactly the mission that Reynie, Sticky, Kate, and Constance are out to abort in the opening book of the series. In their quest to save the minds of the world -- in an unnamed, atemporal sort of country similar to the locations of A Series of Unfortunate Events -- they encounter a set of narcoleptic long-lost twins; terrifying secret agents called Ten Men, so called for their ten ways to kill instantly; mean prefects; and a deeply unsettling, evil machine called The Whisperer.
And so, dear friends, I leave you your first Rec-A-Day with this message:
Poison Apples, Poison Worms
Recommended If You Like: Harry Potter, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Inception, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, The Magic Schoolbus, riddles, friendship, adventure. Star Rating: Five Stars Series?: Yes Complete?: Yes!(less)