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Imagine there is an evil man, hungry for control, who has invented a machine that can control what people think. He is kidnapping people, but the machine is soothing people with a message that says “The missing aren’t missing, they’re only departed.”

This is why four children, from completely different backstories but all extremely bright, are brought together: to save the world.

Reynard (Reynie) Muldoon, an orphan who has never known his parents, is very keen at reading people’s facial expressions and speech. He has a knack for solving puzzles andnoticing anything strange.

Sticky Washington is so called because he reads faster than lightning, and he remembers all of it. Therefore, he possesses a vast library of information inside his head, and he’s always ready with an answer.

Kate Wetheral is fresh out of the circus. She is extremely resourceful and athletic, and never goes anywhere without her red bucket of tools hooked to her belt.

Constance Contraire, a very tiny, pudgy girl, is a candy-loving, stubborn, demanding child, who seems nothing but a nuisance to the other Society members. But she has a very sensitive mind, which proves very useful.

Mr. Benedict brings them all together through special tests, and these four are the only ones who pass. He helps them develop their gifts and sends them to the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened (L.I.V.E.) to gather information on how to best stop the evil man behind all of the strange goings-on.

Teamwork is a recurring theme throughout the book. Kate learns that she needs other people. She can’t live on her own, completely independent of anyone else. Sticky learns that he matters; he’s needed and gifted. Reynie learns what it means to be a leader, to be depended on for answers.

“‘I want to make some things perfectly clear,’ said Mr. Benedict. ‘It is not my wish to put you in harm’s way. Quite the opposite: I despise the notion. Children should spend their time learning and playing in absolute safety - that is my firm belief. Now then, assuming I am telling the truth, can you guess why I would nonetheless involve you in something dangerous?’(...) ‘If you are telling the truth,’ said Reynie, ‘then the only reason you would put us in danger is that you believe we’ll fall into greater danger if you don’t.’” This gives the children a sense of duty, and that is important to have. Sometimes it becomes their only motivation.

The book also teaches about the importance of friendship.“‘I can see it in you,’ Reynie said with perfect conviction. ‘(...) When your friends really need you, they can count on you. I just know it. And I do need you, Sticky. I need you here as a friend.’”

The Mysterious Benedict Society is an interesting, captivating book that will have you begging for more. It emphasizes teamwork and friendship, and you will be laughing and crying along with them.

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart. Brown Books for Young Readers, 2008. Buy the book here and support Stone Soup in the process!

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