The Mysterious Benedict Society

by Trenton Lee Stewart

Hardcover, 2007

Call number



Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (2007), Edition: First Edition, 485 pages


After passing a series of mind-bending tests, four children are selected for a secret mission that requires them to go undercover at the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened, where the only rule is that there are no rules.

User reviews

LibraryThing member theokester
Jason's 3rd grade teacher gave this book to him at the end of the school year last year and we read it over the summer before bedtime.

To me, the book had 3 main chunks...(1) the introduction of characters and a stylistic overview of what to expect, (2) the training and building up of the
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protagonists, and (3) the mysterious mission they must undertake.

The book begins by following a very intelligent/observant young orphan, Reynie, as he answers an ad in the paper offering an opportunity for gifted kids who can pass a test to be given that Saturday. Reynie proceeds to the test location. At first, the test is expected to be a standard written exam to test the knowledge and aptitude of the kids. Many of the test takers are brought to tears by the difficulty of the test.

As the test progresses, Reynie learns that the test is not a single written exam, but a series of tests. After each test session, more and more kids are weeded out and we quickly become aware that the test is about more than just what's on the paper or what's in the instructions given.

Naturally, our hero Reynie passes the test(s) and arrives at the home of Mr. Benedict where he and 3 other kids (Kate, Sticky and Constance) are given a debriefing of the Mysterious Benedict Society and meet its founder Mr. Benedict, a mysterious man in himself.

The kids are informed that a dangerous, but very important mission must be undertaken. If successful, all of humanity may be saved from an awful fate. If failed, that fate must surely come to pass. While a bit nervous and frightened, the children naturally accept.

The next few chapters involve the kids growing closer together and undergoing a strange new educational process where Mr. Benedict and his assistants prepares them for the mission. This second phase of the book is short, but very interesting and serves as a great method for giving us more insight into the characters as well as laying down the groundwork for some of the adventures to come.

The heart of the story comes in phase three when the kids undertake the mission and go undercover to a strange island where a seemingly eccentric old man is benignly trying to educate and train a group of kids in his own fashion. The details of the mission and of the evil plot lurking on the island come clear a bit at a time. Our heroic characters grow closer together and become a tight-knit team.

Overall I really enjoyed the story, the characters and the writing of this book. The author did a great job of putting together an intriguing adventure mystery that is intelligent and intriguing. Some of the technological elements seem a bit far-fetched in retrospect, but felt largely believable in the heart of the writing. I think what I liked best (beyond the feeling of kids being secret agent heroes, piecing together clues and puzzles, and saving the day), is that the author didn't "dumb it down" for young kids. This is a book about a group of really smart kids trying to outwit a criminal mastermind. By keeping the clues and the adventure elevated, it all felt more believable and was more fulfilling as the pieces fell together.

Jason and I were excited to find book 2 in the series on sale at the book store as we wrapped up this book. We're looking forward to following the future adventures of the Benedict Society. This is a great read for young kids looking for a well constructed, thoughtful adventure.

Definitely recommended.

4.5 stars out of 5
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LibraryThing member amandabock
Oh, how I loved this one. It reminded me of The Penderwicks- a perfect mixture of old-fashioned and contemporary. I think if E. Nesbit were still around, this is what she would be writing.

I loved the characters and their "superpowers" (especially Constance!). I loved that I wasn't entirely sure how
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it was going to turn out, and the twists and turns were perfectly plausible. The Edward Gorey-esque line drawings complemented the story perfectly.

The only thing that bothered me was the resolution to Sticky's story. it was too tidy and ultimately unsatisfying. I don't really believe Mr. Benedict's explanation. I would have been happier if he had picked up some confidence instead.

I have two conflicting ideas about who to give this book to. Part of me says that only particular readers will appreciate its quirkiness, but another says it will appeal to those who enjoyed Lemony Snicket's books, which were an enormous blockbuster. Probably, as with so many books, lots of kids will read and enjoy it, and a few will savor and adore it.
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LibraryThing member cbl_tn
Who says you can't judge a book by its cover? The cover art is what drew me to this book, and it definitely lived up to its promise. If you like puzzles, secret clubs, secret codes, secret rooms, espionage, and precocious kids, you'll love this book. It's an adventure that will appeal to middle
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school and advanced elementary students, and also to the young at heart of any age. The good news is that there are at least two more adventures to look forward to. Enthusiastically recommended.
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LibraryThing member nmhale
If you were a child who read too much, maybe a bit nerdy, a bit different, a bit teased, a bit lonely (as I certainly was, and I'm guessing that many others in this group will relate), then you will love this book! Four children, after reading an ad in the paper (Are You a Gifted Child Looking for
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Special Opportunities?) and passing an array of baffling tests and mind teasers, become secret agents for Mr. Benedict. They travel to an island school that only admits the best and the brightest - which is why Mr. Benedict needed gifted children - and that is also housing an awful secret.

I can definitely relate to the children, although they were all smarter than me, but I love knowledge and learning, and was picked on myself as a child. Also, Trenton does a nice job of assembling students that are all gifted in extremely different ways. Reynie is the leader, with intelligence and a shrewd gift for reading people; Sticky is the bookworm with immense amounts of literal knowledge; Kate is athletic, with spatial knowledge galore; and Constance is creative, independent, and stubborn.

I also did not foresee many of the surprises, always a bonus for me, and the kids' adventures on the island were just so amusing and exciting. They always had to puzzle them out to succeed. Finally, secret agents that are super smart, instead of strong or charming or dangerous. In fact, the agents that are like that in this story always downplay their dangerousness. This story is a rollicking good adventure, and I look forward to reading the sequel.
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LibraryThing member lycomayflower
Fun, children's/young adult book. Lots of adventure, clues, and codes. Emphasizes the importance of believing in yourself and the power of friendship. Did not grab me in the way that, say, Harry Potter did (I enjoyed this and may well read the next in the series, but I can't quite imagine reading
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this one again, whereas I've reread all of the HP books repeatedly), but worthwhile. And I'd certainly recommend it to ten and eleven year-olds (if I knew any).
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LibraryThing member rebachin
I thought it was really cute at first, but I think the length wore on me... kind of got boring. Still, it was a quite unique and inventive story.
LibraryThing member sarah-e
I really enjoyed this book. The story is interesting, exciting, and funny. The characters and their mission/troubles reminded me of the Lemony Snicket books - if you liked those, you will probably like this as well. It is not as dark, but similarly eerie with super smart kids on the trail of a bad
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guy. I can't wait for the next one!
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LibraryThing member 15sanac
Book Review
The Mysterious Benedict Society
I really liked this book because it was full of adventure. When Reynie, Kate, Sticky and Constance go on their adventures, you can feel like you are with them because of the detailed descriptions and the metaphors. This book had a lot of parts where you
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would go “Ahh” and would be able to connect/relate with the character. My favorite character from this book is Kate, how she is always courageous and brave willing to do anything to help her friends. My favorite part from this book was the test, the test that coincidentally brought the 4 kids together to meet Mr. Benedict and became something like a family. I was really moved by this book, how the whole non-blood-related family would do anything to save each other. I recommend this book for younger teens.
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LibraryThing member curiousbutterpants
The Mysterious Benedict Society is, unimpeachably, a rather clever book - meant for rather clever children (or adults, as the case may be.) And while I can't make claims to be one of either, I can say that I wholeheatedly enjoyed reading this book. Smith's not only crafted a carefully balanced,
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intricate adventure story, but he's filled it with all sorts of clever situations and occurences for its main characters - which we readers feel enormous satisfaction at being privvy to, if I may say. Reading The Mysterious Benedict Society is in many ways like reading a very clever riddle - and whether you're able to figure it out or not before the ending is revealed, you can't help but feel a part of some inside club. Now all we need is secret Benedict Society decoder rings.
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LibraryThing member kgriffith
A fantastic first novel, The Mysterious Benedict Society engages the reader immediately and keeps the pages turning at an incredible clip. From laugh-out-loud quips to awful puns, clever puzzles to a-ha moments of self-discovery, this book intended for young readers can be enjoyed by anyone who
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recognizes and appreciates the power of a child's mind. The primary and supporting characters' adventures of the mind and body are sure to appeal to all types, and the quirks of each make it easy to remember who's who, even when the action approaches breakneck speed.
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LibraryThing member wsquared
The mysterious Mr. Benedict recruits four extremely precocious children to infiltrate Ledropatha Curtain's Learning Institute and disrupt his plans to brainwash the world's population. It's fun to read, full of lots of close calls and near misses for the main characters as they sneak around the
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Institute, discovering its secrets. But with a lot of longer adventure stories, the final action sequences drag a bit and the loose ends get tied up a little too nicely in the last few pages. Still, younger Harry Potter fans who miss the mischievnous and friendship of the series will find a lot to love here.
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LibraryThing member rgruberexcel
RGG: Vibe is similar to the Lemony Snicket series and the Good and Evil series, but the writing is much better and the story has an important Orwellian 1984 science fiction vibe. Recommended especially for strong 5th Grade readers. More of an "X" than "U-W."
LibraryThing member 15narisal
Book Review:
The Mysterious Benedict Society is about these 4 kids called Reynie; a bright but lonely orphan, Kate; an adventurous courageous girl who has a bucket full of gadgets and tools, Constance Contraire; a stubborn and annoying little girl, and last but not the least, Sticky Washington; a
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bald boy with an amazing memory of facts. These 4 amazing kids took a mysterious and weird series of test. After they passed they met up together in the “Mysterious Benedict Society” These children had been selected by Mr. Benedict to undertake a mysterious assignment which was to help and save the world by defeating Ledroptha Curtain; Mr. Benedict’s long lost evil twin and figuring out what was his evil plan. This is one of the greatest books that I have ever read, because whenever I read this book I felt like I’m in the adventure with them. My favorite part of this book was when they took the test and all the questions were required each individual to think carefully. There were even some activities they had to physically participate. There was this part when they ask the kids to walk across the room without stepping on the “square tiles” but the whole path was filled with square tiles so it was impossible to get there without touching the floor. Reynie was smart he looked at the question and thought about it. Then, he stared at the tile carefully and realized they weren’t square tiles they were only rectangular tiles so he just walked casually to the other side. On the other hand, Kate used the gadget and tools to reach the other side of the room by using a rope. This book is filled with mystery, dangerous adventures, wordplay and riddles. This is a must read book, you cannot miss it. I could not take my hands off this book and I highly recommend this book to everyone age 9+.
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LibraryThing member jlrobinson99
I read this aloud to my 8 and 5 year old (boys) during a long road trip. They quickly fell in love with Reynie, Kate, Sticky and Constance and their various adventures. "The Secret Benedict Society" members each have a unique skill/attribute that they bring to the group; they are a true team that
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need each other to be successful. My kids had fun guessing at the riddles and quickly dubbed this 'a thinking book'. All three are 5 stars, in our opinion!
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LibraryThing member vercoutere
I loved this book. Quirky kids with smarts going on grand adventures and solving mysteries makes for a great story. Well written and thoughful.
LibraryThing member RGQuimby
Clever and original, if slightly long and laggy in the middle. Still a really nice example of clever middle grade fiction that does not talk down to its readers at all. The characters, while exaggerated, are likable and memorable. Reynard comes across as clever and interesting without the reader
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ever getting the impression that the author is trying to get them to like him.
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LibraryThing member 5hrdrive
Starts out great, but once the kids reach the island it loses steam.
LibraryThing member alana_leigh
It's a pretty popular and time-tested children's book plot device to suggest that only a child can bring about the destruction of an evil power because said evil power would never see it coming. It's so very popular that I feel this concept should make it onto the list of things to beware if you
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become an evil superpower (along with monologues spoken just prior to your attempt to kill an archnemesis that might give away your evil plan and incompetent underlings). The Mysterious Benedict Society follows in the tradition of books where kids save the world, tossing in some healthy doses of "orphans banding together," "improbable boarding school arrangements," and "eccentric adult leaders."

Our main character is Reynie Muldoon, an orphaned child of impressive intelligence who answers an unusual ad in the newspaper after being encouraged to do so by his tutor, Miss Perumal. "ARE YOU A GIFTED CHILD LOOKING FOR SPECIAL OPPORTUNITIES?" the ad asks -- and Reynie notes with some surprise that the question is directed to children and not parents. After undergoing some very surprising tests that aren't simply looking for general knowledge, Reynie finds that he has passed and is offered a place working with Mr. Benedict, a narcoleptic genius who has uncovered a villain's evil plot to control the world through the television and radio. Reynie is one of four children (all of whom are orphaned or otherwise alone in the world) that Mr. Benedict has recruited to join a secret society of child spies who will help him save the world. These four children each have their own unique talents and to accomplish their goals, they'll have to work together. Sticky Washington, a nervous boy who fidgets with his glasses, has a photographic memory. Kate Wetherall, who would like to be known as the Great Kate Weather Machine, has recently been part of a circus and is like a pint-sized MacGyver, carrying a bucket of useful items and tools. Constance Contraire... well, she's small, stubborn, and pretty annoying, but don't worry, she has her talents, too.

Together, the kids (who dub themselves the Mysterious Benedict Society) infiltrate an elite island school called the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened (one of the kids jokes that at least the initials don't spell out DIE). Apparently, the man who runs the school, Mr. Curtain, is somehow broadcasting subliminal messages to the people of the world, sowing the seeds of panic and discontent that make up "the Emergency" which is a generally perceived notion that things are going downhill. Upon arriving at the school, however, the kids are totally on their own and find that the man who runs the school, Mr. Curtain, looks exactly like their beloved leader, Mr. Benedict! Together, they need to figure out what this means, how the subliminal messages are being broadcast, what purpose the messages have, and how they can stop it all to save the world... which seems like rather daunting tasks for four kids all on their own, but these are no ordinary children.

Trenton Lee Stewart has created a charming story with fun characters. There were a few times where I felt things dragged on a bit or certain characters would be a bit annoying, but on the whole I thought this was really a wonderful children's/YA book with some very positive messages contained within. Fans of Roald Dahl will find a kindred spirit in Stewart, who isn't perhaps as wicked, but is still quite witty. For kids who enjoy solving clues and figuring out a puzzle right alongside the protagonists, this would be an excellent read. The book also deals with some pretty serious issues including parental abandonment, the true nature of family, dealing with one's fears, forgiveness, and loyalty to the people one holds dear. Ultimately, Stewart has written an excellent novel and given the creativity in this one, I doubt that he'll have much trouble sustaining a series.
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LibraryThing member invisiblelizard
I think I was initially attracted to this book by the cover (a neatly drawn illustration which reminded me a little of my wife's drawings if she drew covers to children's books). Picked it up to read the back and was initially put off by the "another orphan who finds out he's special" description
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which seems to be a theme in kid's books, but since I'm a fan of whatever this genre is, young adult fiction, and because the cover intrigued me, I picked it up.

The writing is good enough. Not Shakespeare, not Dickens, not even Rowling, but it's a good read for someone who enjoys literature aimed at a younger crowd. Stewart weaves together a perfunctory sentence and doesn't waste a whole lot of time with flowery language that, I suspect, kids would gloss over anyway.

The characters are fairly standard. The quiet leader who has to grow into his role and keep his team on the right track. The athlete who has little time for mind games. The shy genius who knows everything. The noisy brat. The evil scientist. The good witch of the east. (Oh wait, wrong story.) Nothing too inventive, but a workable combination. The average kid reading this might be discovering some of these characters for the first time, but I certainly felt like I was spying on childlike representations of so many other literary figures I'd read about in the past.

The plot was intriguing. It brought be back to my own youth and I found myself thinking that if I had read this book as a kid, I would have loved it. As an adult, I merely liked it, but knowing my high standards that might be saying something. Predictable, yes, but the puzzles that Stewart weaves throughout are intriguing enough that I enjoyed trying to guess at how this little rag-tag group of child geniuses would solve them.

I enjoy youth fiction because it takes me back to my own youth, yes, but also because they are usually quick and fun reads, if they are well enough written for me tolerate. This was certainly that. So much so that I immediately went out and bought the sequel. And, if that isn't high praise enough, I even read it.
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LibraryThing member hawaiianmermaid701
This story was quite long (clocking in at nearly 500 pages) but worth every moment it took to read!

The story was jam packed with action and memorable characters, and I would like to be their friend in real life. The mystery and the story was wrapped up nicely at the end. By the end of the book, I
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couldn't believe it was over!

I'm intrigued to read the second book, but at the same time I liked how this story ended and I sort of don't feel the need to read more...I don't know.

I highly recommend this book, and happy reading!
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LibraryThing member annekiwi
A really fun read. For Harry Potter fans, I highly recommend it. It has the same sort of feel of kids being in charge. I think it speaks to those of us who wish we had been as intelligent, intrepid and quick-witted as these kids are when we were young. My only criticism was I didn't like the twist
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at the end regarding Constance.
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LibraryThing member jentifer
This book was cute and clever: gifted children are selected to lead a secret, dangerous mission! A mission that only children can do! With bad guys! I especially enjoyed the first 2/3 of the book; I must admit that by the last 100 pages or so I wasn't very involved in my reading - the plot was just
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coasting along at that point. Characters were fun and the logic game and puzzles were hard but not so difficult that you couldn't solve them and feel a bit smug about it. Fans of Lemony Snicket will enjoy the word play and quirky details. Bonus information: illustrated by the same artist to design albums for the Portland band The Decemberists - neat!
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LibraryThing member kayceel
I read this one for my teen book group. Four young orphans/runaways meet after taking a mysterious colection of tests and puzzles. When they discover they've been chosen to be a part of a secret group meant to save the world from an evil scientist, they're a bit surprised, to say the least...

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is and eleven-year-old orphan, who is incredibly gifted - he's very intelligent and a wonderful problem solver. When he's chosen for the Benedict Society, he's happy to discover that he's been chosen along with two other bright children - Kate, an incredibly resourceful girl that reminded me of Pippi Longstocking, and Sticky Washington, a boy with an incredible memory - and not surprisingly, they all find that they're misfits among other children their age.

When Mr. Benedict shares their mission with them (along with a VERY small fourth member - Constance, a very contrary girl), they're nervous at the thought of becoming spies in an even more mysterious school "for the very gifted". Can they work together to save the world?

I really enjoyed this book - it's exactly the sort of story I loved as a kid! Smart, resourceful young kids, forced to survive on their own, for whatever reason, on a a dangerous adventure.

All four kids are well-fleshed out, and the reader gets a real sense of compassion for all of them (well, a little less for Constance - she's quite a brat). The four struggle not only with the stress of their assignment, but also with their growing friendships, and with their own feelings of loneliness and abandonment as orphans and/or runaways.

Though The Mysterious Benedict Society is long, I'd definitely suggest this smart adventure to 8-12yr-olds who don't mind a bit of a challenge.
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LibraryThing member SarahGraceGrzy
4.5 stars!

JUST WOW! What on earth did I just read!?

This was a crazy fun wild ride from beginning to end! I wish I had known about these books growing up, and will now definitely hand them off to my younger siblings.

I'm rather sick of the trite, cliche, dumbed-down, and weak junior fiction novels
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that line the shelves these days. I have very few favorites in that genre because there is just so little good in it. But this is one that I've added to my list of favorites! Unique, deep, fascinating, and "brainy", this breaks all the molds of J-fic!

The characters were all so fantastic, and I quickly became attached to all of them and their journeys. Each of them were distinctive and one-of-a-kind.

The ending was beyond fabulous. They all got their family!!!! It made me cry. And if a J-fic novel can make me cry . . . well, then it's pretty good!

I did dock a half star off my rating because it was SUPER long, and I found myself losing interest in some places. Also, it's pretty . . . outlandish, I guess? Speculative isn't really my thing, so there was some aspects I didn't love. But overall, still 4.5 stars!

Highly recommended!
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LibraryThing member janeenv
After passing a series of strange, mind-bending tests, four gifted children are chosen to join Mr. Benedict in a very important secret mission: to stop an eccentric inventor, Mr. Curtain, from taking over the world. To do this they go undercover to the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened.
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At first they don’t know what Mr. Curtain is up to, but bit-by-bit they discover his secrets and also realize how important it is that they work together.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book!! It was so different and creative that it had me interested right from the start; I didn’t want to put it down. Not only do the children in the story have secrets to uncover throughout the book, but so do the readers. For example, the mind-bending tests at the beginning of the story were so bizarre that I was very curious to discover the reason behind them. And the details of the wicked plot and of the kids’ mission only become clearer a little bit at a time.

I also really liked the characters in this book, especially the kids. The author does an excellent job in developing the children’s characters and giving them interesting and unique personalities. The four kids have distinctive strengths and weaknesses that make them a great team, needing to work together. In addition to the kids, the other characters – the Helpers, the Messengers, Mr. Curtain, Mr. Benedict, etc. – are also out of the ordinary and interesting.

The only slight criticism that I had about this book was the slightly sappy ending. I liked that it has a happy ending but it seemed a bit farfetched. Then again, the whole story is farfetched because it’s science fiction and that was what made it so exciting and fun to read. This book was definitely worth my time and I’m looking forward to the end of this semester when I’ll have more time to read book two (The Mysterious Benedict Society: The Perilous Journey).
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