Sunday, January 04, 2009

Older Son Loves Benedict Society and Other Juvenile Literature Book Thoughts

I am still very happy about my older son, age eleven, really loving reading after successful treatment for an eye tracking problem, a visual processing learning disability. I had considered that son a ‘reluctant reader’ of ‘regular books’ before he was diagnosed and treated. I thought I’d update you on the reading going on around here since my last long post on the topic dated December 8, 2008: Now Obsessed by Ember.

A homeschooled girl I know said “The Secret Benedict Society” was one of her favorite books, the type that sucks you in and you don’t want to put down and while reading it you escape off to another land. She is eleven and had read it and its sequel too. Like my son, she also likes realistic fiction, but my son likes fantasy even more, especially if it involves dragons or real kids who somehow go to an alternate world. My son also loves books that have a story mixed with clues that need to be solved especially if they are connected to real life treasure hunts, contests with prizes. That began in 2005 when we, as a family, participated in a real life treasure hunt via children’s book called “A Treasure Trove”, conceived, written, and illustrated by Michael Stadther. We were at a state park in New York when the first gold token was found, hunting ourselves, and I was close to the location when it was found. My friend and I are seen in a photo of that site in the Solutions book although I’m tiny and not named in the caption (I’m wearing a blue jacket if you look in the book for me).

I had heard about ‘Benedict Society’ only from Amazon, when the site kept telling me that customers who bought a book I owned also bought this book. This is apparently another great book that somehow I was not hearing about from my homeschool-mom-book-loving friends or from any other source like blogs. (Is this a sign that I need to spend more time reading blogs about children’s books? Or get back to holding my homeschool support group meetings with the topic being living books?)

I told my son about the book and I picked up the first book in early December when buying gift cards for my nephews at Barnes & Noble. The day I blogged about my older son loving pleasure reading, he decided against reading ‘The Tale of Despereaux’ and instead picked up ‘Benedict Society’.

My son devoured the first book in the series. When I saw this happening I immediately placed an order with Amazon to get the sequel at a discount (out only in hardcover right now).

He went slower with reading the sequel. The latest report is that the entire first book was exciting and he didn’t want to put it down. For the second book “the beginning was good but the middle was boring and I slowed down, it is picking up again and getting better now”. Today he finished it and said it was really good overall and picked up the pace for the last third or so. The reading of it was also slowed down as Christmas happened in the middle of reading it, so he had more time not home, time preparing for Christmas, then time playing with new LEGOs and a temporary lifting of the usual limits on video game playing and television watching.

My son is begging me to read the two ‘Benedict Society’ books. I want to but I have so many books in progress! I have six stacks of books going around my nightstand and a small stack on the nightstand. I have stacks of books all around my computer desk in the family library. I have stacks of books borrowed from two libraries. I have books to finish reading for the Amazon Vine reviewer program and one to finish for the Library Thing Early Reviewers program.

Son states he feels the genre of ‘Benedict Society’ is a mystery thriller and action adventure. (Amazon confirmed that and also places this in the fantasy genre.) It is juvenile fiction for readers aged 9-12 and is published by Simon and Schuster, in 2007.

From what I gleaned from reading reviews on Amazon combined with what my son has told me, the book’s characters are school children who answer an ad to take part in a special opportunity. The kids are gifted and are taught to use their thinking skills and creative problem solving talents to solve clues. They wind up having to stop an evil mastermind from taking over the world. Yes this book is about children trying to save the world. The kids in the book along with the reader have to solve clues and break codes as they go along. The characters are both girls and boys so this book has an appeal for both girls and boys. Any child who likes to break clues and solve mysteries (kids intrigued with spy stuff) will enjoy this book.

Book One: “The Mysterious Benedict Society” by Trenton Lee Stewart is available in hardcover book, paperback book, audio CD, downloadable audio book from, and on the Kindle. Today on Amazon this book is #408 in sales rank which is really high! At under $7 for the paperback book it is a cheap read too.

Book Two: “Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey” published in 2008, is currently available in hardcover book (paperback due out on May 1, 2009), audio CD, audio download from, and for the Kindle.

What is next in line? Older son is again putting aside ‘Despereaux’ even though doing so will mean he’ll not see the movie version in the theatre due to our family policy. He is moving on to 39 Clues which I’ll blog about tomorrow (younger son is currently is reading the first 39 Clues book and my two boys are working on solving the mystery together even though my older son knows nothing of the story yet). The girl I mentioned who loved ‘Benedict Society’ went on to read the ‘Penderwick’ books by Jeanne Birdsall and is reading an Andrew Clements book (a favorite author of both her and my older son). I don’t yet know of the Penderwick books are more of a girl-only book because the story concerns four sisters and one teen boy.

One more comment is that I’m in the same spot a friend was in two years ago. She had said to me that after researching good wholesome old books that many homeschoolers love, especially out of print living books recommended in Charlotte Mason circles, that her son was really enjoying recently published juvenile fiction. The old books she scoured library sales for were sitting idle and rejected on her shelves and instead they were making good use of the public library for the newest books on the market. That is the position I’m finding myself in right now. A little of what my son is reading is twaddle (“Diary of a Wimpy Kid”) but for the most part the new books he is reading can be considered ‘good stuff’. Since the goal is to enjoy reading and to have that lovely feeling of escaping from the real world into the world of books, reading these new and currently popular books is working out fine for him. (It is just that my own expectations and plans are not coming to fruition.)

Books Mentioned in this Post

The Tale of Despereaux, movie in theatres now

Penderwick , first in series, published in 2007, winner of the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature

Penderwick, sequel, published in 2008

39 Clues series—book one, The Maze of Bones, published in 2008

39 Clues series --- book two, One False Note, published in 2008

39 Clues series --- book three, The Sword Thief due out March 3, 2009

Diary of a Wimpy Kid book one, graphic novel, 2007, (twaddle alert)

Diary of a Wimpy Kid book two Roderick Rules, graphic novel, 2008, (twaddle alert)

Diary of a Wimpy Kid book three Do-It-Yourself book (trying to get kids to write and draw their own story), graphic novel, 2008, (twaddle alert)

Diary of a Wimpy Kid book four The Last Straw, graphic novel, to be published January 13, 2009 (twaddle alert)

A Treasure’s Trove (the hunt is over now)

Solution book for A Treasure’s Trove

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Kim said...

Congratulations on your son's progress, and now you have a pleasant problem--keeping a supply of good books.

A book that has those aspects you mentioned--a mystery, kids involved in finding out something big, and clues is Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett. I didn't like how the author deliberately undercut experts and implied that children are better judges than those who are very knowledgable in specialized field. Though I certainly appreciate the idea of not taking everyone's opinion at face value and making one's own determination when things don't seem to add up, art research and young kids just don't seem to fit the bill to me.

christinemm said...

Thanks for that head's up Kim. I believe I picked that book up at a library sale for 50 cents and have it sitting on the shelf waiting to be discovered. I hate that undercutting. There is a fine line between when that is good for a story and when the adults come across like stupid idiots. That is one aspect I hate in most children's television programs (i.e. Suite Life of Zach and Cody and so many others).

My friend listened to the audio book with her 2 kids (girl and a boy) "Shakespeare Stealer" and said it was great. She has good taste in books.

One reason I pre-read City of Ember (book one) is that I didn't know if another friend of mine had the same criteria as me to judge a book.

With that said sometimes my kids do read twaddle such as "Diary of a Wimpy Kid".

Crimson Wife said...

My mom gave my DD the Benedict Society book for Christmas. It definitely looks interesting. Not sure where it is in my DD's queue of books to read though since she received a whole bunch of titles for Christmas (everyone knows she's a bookworm). I believe she's currently on the last book of Lloyd Alexander's "Prydain Chronicles" series.