A dangerous scavenger hunt across the world cannot be accomplished by one person. In the book The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey by Trenton Lee Stewart, Mr. Benedict sends Reynie Muldoon, Kate Wetherall, George “Sticky” Washington, and Constance Contraire on a scavenger hunt across the world, leaving clues scattered all over the place. However, not everything goes as planned. Mr. Benedict and his assistant, Number Two, are captured by the Society’s archenemy, Mr. Benedict’s evil twin Mr. Curtain. In addition, Mr. Curtain’s minions, the Ten Men, are out to capture the four children. With nearly no help from anyone else, the four children need to rely on each other more than ever now. In order to solve the mysteries and survive the perils of this journey, all four are needed to help, and there is rarely a time when a problem is solved by one of them alone.
The clues that Mr. Benedict leaves often require more than one mind. The third clue was especially interesting. It read:
No cork or pine for two meters
Since Sticky’s given name was George, and since he was very studious and had a very good memory, he knew that the castle - St. George’s Castle - was in Lisbon. The ship thechildren were sailing on - the Shortcut- was stopping there, that wasn’t a problem. In addition, Captain Noland - a supporting character and the captain of the Shortcut, noticed that the object clued must be hidden, inferred from the lines “not visible” and “need tool.” However, when they arrived at the castle, they found that nearly every spot was at most two meters away from cork or pine, and that there were also olive trees all over the place. Suddenly, Reynie realized that taking the first letter of each line, it spelled out “cannon.” Kate, who was excellent at gauging distances, found that there was only one cannon that didn’t have cork or pine in a two-meter radius. Using her spyglass, she also found that there was a rectangular area, in the shape of an envelope, covered in putty and paint. She quickly scraped the putty and paint off, took the envelope, and dashed back. Even though she was spotted by the Ten Men Jackson and Jillson, it still represents how the children used teamwork to crack the clue. But, it is even harder for them to piece together implicit puzzles that weren’t necessarily planned.
In addition to explicitly planned clues, the characters also have to make some improvisations since some of the clues have been tampered or messed with. For example, after they find the first clue, which says “dictionary”, they still need to find it. Sticky, with his photographic memory, has memorized the locations of all the dictionaries, but the one Mr. Benedict is talking about was taken by government officials after he was abducted. In addition, the security guards are already getting suspicious, so Reynie defuses the tension by pretending to be leaving to play a game. Despairing, the children need to find a way to retrieve the dictionary without the government officials noticing. They know they need a distraction, but they don’t know how. Luckily, Moocho Brazos, Kate’s butler and previously the Strong Man for the circus, shows up and, thinking the children are in danger, riles the police up. Kate, seeing her chance, makes a run for the dictionary and manages to retrieve it without anyone noticing. These operations are much riskier and require teamwork more than ever.
Teamwork is very important when solving problems. Combining multiple perspectives together is vital when investigating or thinking about something, as it broadens vision from that of one person to that of multiple people, increasing the likelihood of finding the answer. “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.” - Helen Keller
The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey by Trenton Lee Stewart. Brown Books for Young Readers, 2009. Buy the book here and support Stone Soup in the process!