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The Mysterious Benedict Society

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
The Mysterious Benedict Society Book Poster Image
Suspenseful mystery with a Lemony Snicket vibe.
Parents recommendPopular with kids

Parents say

age 8+
Based on 30 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 89 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Kids practice and use Morse code throughout the book. 

Positive Messages

Teamwork, creative problem solving, and the love of truth, are essential to the success of the four main characters. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

The four main characters are very admirable and possess talents that complement one another. Reynie is extremely conscientious and great at solving puzzles and thinking about others' motivations. Sticky has a voracious appetite for knowledge and remembers everything he reads. Kate is the athlete and strategic thinker who can get out of any trap. Constance may be ill-tempered, but she's also loyal, bright, and courageous.


Some fist fighting resulting in cuts and bruises. A near kidnapping of kids ends with perpetrators being knocked out with a tranquilizer gun. Constance is shocked with a special watch and recovers. All four characters are orphans and some talk briefly of parents' deaths or disappearances. Talk of government workers going missing. Adult recalls being hit on the head, captured, and losing his memory. Mr. Benedict mentions that his parents were killed in a lab accident when he was a baby.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Mysterious Benedict Society is the story of four gifted kids, all orphans age 12 and under, who are recruited and then trained by Mr. Benedict and sent to a remote boarding school to learn more about an evil mastermind bent on taking over the world. There's little violence beyond some mild fistfighting and a near kidnapping, where perpetrators are knocked out with a tranquilizer gun. Teamwork, creative problem solving, and the love of the truth are keys to the kids' success. This is the first in a four-volume series. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byGauthier April 9, 2008

Great as an audio book

Our entire family listened to this book on a two day car trip. Never has a trip gone by so fast. The kids were asking to get back into the car at every stop.
Parent of a 3 and 7 year old Written byMBGeorge February 2, 2010

good for gifted children

Nice to run across a longer book with almost no troublesome content. My 7 year old is an avid reader and it is difficult to find titles with appropriate subjec... Continue reading
Kid, 10 years old June 15, 2009

My favorite book!

This series is the BEST series I have ever read. 4 children solve mysteries and help the world using friendship and knowledge. I read the first book when I was... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bySafemancam001 February 28, 2011

Intrieging mystery for every one

This book is an exciting kick-off to a great series. There's excitement on every page, and you will probably learn something along the way.

What's the story?

The ad in the newspaper says, "Are you a gifted child looking for special opportunities?" Reynie, an orphan, decides that he is, and persuades the orphanage director to let him take the test. Along with three other children who pass, Reynie meets the mysterious Mr. Benedict, a narcoleptic who lives behind a maze and who has an important mission for the children. They're sent to a boarding school on an island, The Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened, to find out all they can about the school's director, Ledroptha Curtain. Posing as students, they discover his plan to take over the world using mind control. But in Curtain's carefully controlled island fortress, stopping him seems impossible, even for four very gifted children.

Is it any good?

 At nearly 500 pages, THE MYSTERIOUS BENEDICT SOCIETY is quite long, and it drags at points, but it's a clever and suspenseful story. Cross Lemony Snicket with Blue Balliett and you'll have a good idea of the tone: a code- and puzzle- filled mystery wrapped in an over-the-top melodrama.

Every character is delightfully eccentric, there are plenty of twists and turns, and underlying it all is a wicked but understated sense of humor. Reluctant readers will be put off by its size and uneven pacing, but bright, avid readers will love it.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the puzzles and quizzes the kids in the book have to solve. Were you able to figure out any of the answers before they were revealed? Did you figure out Mr. Benedict's first name?

  • What are stories about strange, mysterious schools so popular? What others have you read? 

  • Learn more about Morse code, which figures prominently in the story. What coded message would you send?  

Book details

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