My sister got the series of The Mysterious Benedict Society for Evalina for her birthday, and we just finished the first one. So good! Can't wait to start the next one!
The Story: Reynie Muldoon is an extraordinary boy. He is in an orphanage, and is tutored by the kind Miss Perumal, but otherwise, things aren't looking very bright for him. That is, until he comes across an advertisement looking for extraordinary children to take a test, and qualify for wonderful opportunities. Thus begins his adventures. He meets Mr. Benedict, and his life changes forever. With fellow extraordinary children Kate Weatherall, Sticky Washington, and Constance Contraire, the group of children form the Mysterious Benedict Society, and infiltrate a special institute that is not what it appears to be. Can they save the world before it's too late?
The Good: Super exciting! The children are wonderfully engaging characters (and the adults are, too, but they are really secondary to the plot). They are brave, but believably so. They face dangers with creativity and zeal, and their troubles, while exciting, are never really too scary for the reader. You have a sense that it will all work out in the end, though you aren't sure how. The chapters were a manageable length to read about one per night (though sometimes we couldn't stop at just one!) and the story was really engaging.
The Bad: There were some cliffhangers that were a little much for Evalina to handle, and required reading a little more to settle her. Some things were a little scary, and the "Waiting Room" in particular was really gross to read about (a terrible stench, yucky mud...) The plot involves a frightening mind control machine, and it's the kids' mission to defeat it. Mysterious indeed!
The Verdict: Wonderful. Can't wait to read more. In the end, everyone found a way to be happy, and the mystery was satisfactorily resolved. Love all the characters, really. The book was long - over 400 pages, and we read it in just about a month. Super exciting. Evalina totally loved it and found it funny, exciting, and engaging. Amazon recommends it for grades 5-9, and I can see that for solo reading, but as far as reading with your child, it was just fine for her age range. So much fun.