May 9, 2012

The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict by Trenton Lee Stewart

I was absolutely thrilled when The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict arrived in the mail, having thoroughly enjoyed the series of The Mysterious Benedict Society.  (Though to be completely honest when I heard a MBS prequel was in the works I questioned it...but then I just became giddy over the thought of reading new Trenton Lee Stewart material.)  Despite my enthusiasm, I offered EENB to my husband to read before myself.  I had two books that I was already reading that needed to be completed before I could begin...and I knew he had read and enjoyed the MBS.

Nicholas Benedict is a nine year old orphan with a rather unfortunately large nose.  He is beginning life at yet another orphanage.  Though Nicholas is an off-the-charts intelligent child, he still faces many difficulties that come as a result of being an orphan.  In addition to adjusting to life in a new orphanage and the loneliness, Nicholas must also deal with narcolepsy, a condition where he falls asleep suddenly, often due to excitement.

Life at Rothschild's End (or 'Child's End) is difficult for all children, but a group of rough boys known as the Spiders make every day miserable and life is just plain lonely for Nicholas.  Nicholas is smart enough to keep his emotions in check and not let their bullying defeat him publicly, but he he doesn't have much hope for the future.
Then Nicholas learns of a great treasure that is hidden at the orphanage.  He puts all of his hope and energy into finding this treasure.  The treasure seeking leads them on some adventures (and sneaking about and deception) the property and learning to care for others.

With the obsession of the treasure, I couldn't help but to think of the verse Matthew 6:21 "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."  (That is just where my mind went.  These books are not considered to be Christian, though Carrie certainly found and shared lots of truth in them.)  Nicholas was not the only person consumed with finding the treasure.

The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict is a good book; don't get me wrong.  However, the tone is subtly different than The Mysterious Benedict Society books.  Nicholas is working for the treasure and does not put much hope in others or any thing else.  He does not have any positive history with adults being generous and kind.  Though the MBS is also full of adventure, wits, and even a bit of deception, that was all for the greater good of the world.  EENB is a bit more self-centered as Nicholas is just trying to survive day to day in the orphanage.  Despite this, it was not a negative story, but truly a book I can highly recommend!

Without offering any spoilers here, I will say I had guessed parts of the ending, but was pleasantly surprised at other resolutions.  (Granted, this is children's literature...)

Let me just say again that I definitely recommend this book and all of the Mysterious Benedict Society books for children and adults.  This prequel can be read independently of the MBS books, though I enjoyed knowing what kind of man he would grow up to be.  I think we'll be sharing them with our children after age eight.  How about you?  (Amazon has a great deal now for the original three book set for less than $15...just in case you want your own set!  They would also make a terrific gift for a boy or girl ages 8-13. You know how 12 year old boys might be challenging when it comes to finding a good book?  Try these!!)

Thank you, Little, Brown, for providing this book for review purposes!!

~ Annette {This Simple Mom}

3 comments:

  1. Ooo, YAY! I was waiting to hear your thoughts. I think we generally agree here. It has a subtly different tone. The first book (and the series in general) is by far my favorite. Yet there is a gidiness - as you described it ever so accurately - in having new Trenton Lee Stewart material!

    Definitely a good book and one that you can easily enjoy. Just not my favorite of the MBS books as a whole.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Sounds good. Maybe I will get these for Christopher for his birthday, then the whole family can read them when he is done. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  3. I can't wait to finish up this series. I'm so glad you and Carrie talked me into reading it! :)

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment!