Monday, July 23, 2012

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict

Nicholas, the hero of The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict by Trenton Lee Stewart, has a lot of challenges to overcome. He’s a funny-looking orphan with a big nose, and he’s plagued with a bizarre, nightmare-inducing form of narcolepsy that causes him to drop in his tracks when overwhelmed by strong emotion. But Nicholas is also a genius of uncanny brilliance. His keen intellect is his only defense against the Spiders, the bullies who rule the orphanage with an iron hand.

Stewart has accomplished a tricky task: turning a self-centered, somewhat arrogant youngster with superior brainpower into  a memorable hero whom readers will love and cheer for. The story is a gripping one, replete with Sherlock-Holmesian deductions, forbidden midnight rendezvous, unexpected alliances, and a compelling quest for a hidden treasure, all leading to a logical, yet startling and heartwarming conclusion.

I found the first chapter to be a bit slow. But as soon as Nicholas arrives at the orphanage, in chapter 2, the story takes off at a gallop. I enjoyed this as much as I enjoyed the first three Mysterious Benedict Society novels, to which this is a prequel.

Go to The Mysterious Benedict Society Website for brainteasing games, amusing character sketches, and fun facts about the author, who hails from Little Rock, Arkansas. Since my mother grew up in Arkansas and I went to college at UCA in Conway, not far from Little Rock, I was happy to discover that geographic connection.

Here's the review from Kirkus.


Barbara Watson said...

Just a few months ago my kids and I read the first one in this series aloud together. I'm sure the others are just as enjoyable--and I LOVE the idea of knowing more about Nicholas.

DMS said...

I have only read the first one in the series- but I did enjoy it. I haven't had a chance to read the others. This prequel sounds interesting and it sounds like the author did a great job creating a character who is flawed and full of unique qualities. Great review- and his site is filled with all kinds of cool activities. I love it!


Jemi Fraser said...

I love when the MCs aren't your typical kinds of characters. This one sounds like a perfect fit for my classroom - thanks!

Julie DeGuia said...

Sounds interesting. I started to read the first in this seriew to my kids but I think they were too young at the time. Thanks for the great review!

Anonymous said...

Great review! I have read the first, but not the rest. I know a number of kids, though, who do love the series. I really should get to finishing it because I really did like the first one