Thursday, May 24, 2012

Review: The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict

The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict
By Trenton Lee Stewart
Published 2012 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Before the Mysterious Benedict Society, there was simply a young orphan named Nicholas Benedict. He's about to start a new journey at a new orphanage, Rothschild's End, and he doesn't expect it to go any better than the last. You see, Nicholas is quite an unusual child - he has an awfully long nose, he's terribly smart and precocious, and he has a condition of which not much is known - narcolepsy. But Child's End holds a secret that is irresistible to Nicholas - a story of a hidden treasure! Can Nicholas solve the mystery and find the treasure, perhaps putting an end to his days at the orphanage?

I was very excited when I heard about this book - I loved the Mysterious Benedict Society series and was excited for a new addition. I was also especially pleased to discover this would be a prequel (my reason for reviewing it here without having reviewed the other titles) - I hadn't enjoyed the third book in the series as much, so this offered a nice change of pace. And, to me, it's always fascinating to read about how a character you think you know became the person you've read about. I really enjoyed getting to know young Nicholas Benedict - nothing in his story really came as a surprise for me, having read the other books, but it was very satisfying to read about his development. I loved the mystery here and the promise it held for Nicholas - a chance to finally escape the torment and solitude he's been surrounded by his entire life. I thought Violet was a terrific character as well - different than we've seen before. The mystery here is a bit different as well - there are no codes or riddles for readers to try to solve alongside Nicholas, but I suppose a diligent reader could solve the mystery of the treasure as Nicholas uncovers more and more information. For me, these books, though intimidating in length, breeze by. I think these books reward their readers with a sense of accomplishment - yes, you've just finished this rather large book, but you've also read quite an excellent book that may have taught you some lessons along the way. I like Nicholas' approach to problem-solving and I think kids will find this appealing as well. The thirst for middle-grade mysteries seems to be ever-increasing and these books should be recommended heartily, this title being no exception.

Thanks to the publisher for an advance reader's copy.

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