Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Smarty Pants Scavenger Hunt

I've been ready for something a bit more light-hearted, and since I enjoyed the first book so much I decided to read The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey by Trenton Lee Stewart, the second book in The Mysterious Benedict Society series.  Was it as delightfully puzzling as the first book?  Lets find out, but first as always SPOILERS AHEAD!
Reynie Muldoon (a smart guy who can puzzle out almost anything) is finally reunited with his friend the resourceful and daring Kate Wetherall on the farm she is now living on with her long lost father Mulligan.  The two have not seen each other since their adventures at the L.I.V.E. institute.  They are soon joined by Sticky Washington (the boy with the photographic memory), his parents, and Mrs. Permal who has adopted Reynie.  The group all head to Mr. Benedict's house to meet up with the super young super perceptive Constance and for a surprise that he has in store for the children.  Upon arriving the group discovers that Mr. Benedict and his assistant Number Two were supposed to have put together a scavenger hunt across the world for the children, but instead have been kidnapped by his twin brother, the nefarious Mr. Curtain.  The kids obtain the first clue that was supposed to start them on their trip and sneak out to rescue their mentor and friend.  The clue leads them to a boat and Captain Noland and a sailor called Cannonball.  They end up in Portugal and after dodging a couple of Mr. Curtains henchmen they find the next clue.  Off to Holland they go.  After they make it to the library, they discover letters and journals written by Mr. Benedicts parents. Reading these informs the children that the Benedicts had been looking for a cure for the family narcolepsy curse.  They found a plant that when processed correctly would potentially cure the sleeping disease. Unfortunately they had to keep it a secret because if used the wrong way, could be used as a weapon to put people to sleep.  The children are attacked by guys known as the Ten Men, people who use nasty objects to inflict pain, all while being very sharply dressed.  The kids are rescued by the surprise appearance of Milligan who agrees to help the kids rescue Mr. Benedict and Number Two.  They work out where the island is and attempt to find the prisoners whereabouts.  The children and are captured and Milligan is defeated by the suave Ten Men and the children are taken to the cave where Mr. Curtain is keeping Mr. Benedict prisoner.  Much banter and exchange of wits occur with the result of Mr. Curtain going of with one of the Ten Men and Mr. Benedict securing his and the children's release.  The friends the children made through out their adventure come to their rescue and Kate proves herself better then the bad guys by showing them mercy.  They all return home to their worried family's and live happily until the next book.
This book was a classic second book in a kids series.  It was a bit predictable, a bit safe, but kept all the stuff I liked about the first one.  A couple of things that caught my attention in this book.  The kids abilities have all grown at a believable rate, now that they know they possesses certain skills, they (and the adults who are awesome) have helped nurture and hone them.  The result is the kids are able to more complicated issues quicker.  The kids themselves have grown up a bit and to that end there are some new tensions in the group that were not there before.  Reynie is struggling to find the good in the world, suspicious of most people, Kate has gotten even more impatient and impulsive, Sticky has the urge to show off, and Constance is trying to cope with her new awareness of patterns and people.  The kids fight and bicker among themselves, certain pairings get along better then others, but in the end they are all try hard to get along, and deep down value their friendships.  The adults in this book crack me up, they are portrayed exactly as I remember feeling about them as a kid.  Most of them come across as loving and a bit overprotective.  We also see the self important adults and the adults who underestimate kids.  One of the things that struck me most, being both realistic, and a bit silly is how after the kids survived their last adventure, proven themselves to be able to work through difficult situations, and be generally good kids, all most of the adults want to do is protect them.  They have a hard time understanding that after the freedom they had previously, trying to make them go back to being ordinary kids is a bit ridiculous.  The children circumvent this by pretty much doing what they want anyways...but always with the best of intentions.  Over all I miss some of the solvable puzzles from the first book, and some of the freshness was gone.  That being said if I was 11 years old, I would be reading and rereading these constantly.  I give this book 6 out of 10 fake diamonds and would recommend it to read aloud with your kids/kids in your life. Happy Reading Everybody!
 What is your favorite sort of puzzle?  How bad do you want to meet Constance when she is a crotchety old lady? Is it just me or are some of these illustrations a bit creepy?

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