Die Heuning Pot Literature Guide
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Intro

In A Nutshell

Hmmm, nutshell. If we're talking a pine nut, which has a pretty small shell, we'd say the story of The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart goes something like this:

But if we're talking about a Brazil nut, which has a much larger shell, we might give you a few more details. For instance:

  • The four kids are all (more or less) orphans.
  • The four adults include a woman who looks like a pencil, another woman young enough to pass for a kid, a thirty-something man with the know-how and reflexes of a secret agent but no idea who he is (due to a serious case of amnesia), and an older man—Mr. Benedict—who, in addition to being the smartest guy around, suffers from narcolepsy with cataplexy, which means that he sometimes falls asleep quite suddenly when he gets emotional. Mostly when he laughs.
  • All eight of them, the kids and the adults, are pretty much geniuses. Some of them in the usual super high IQ kind of way, but some of them in less recognized modes.

They're a nutty bunch (mixed nuts to be sure), but in addition to really great characters and a fun mystery, The Mysterious Benedict Society, "like the Potter books… goes beyond mere adventures, delving into serious issues." That's what Booklist says, and Shmoop has to agree. And Publishers Weekly says that The MBS "resembles the otherworldly experience of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." Another comparison Shmoop fully supports.

Along with all of these favorable reviews, we could probably fit even more in the shell of a Brazil nut, like the fact that The MBS was first published in 2007, and has since spawned two sequels (The MBS and the Perilous Journey, 2008, and The MBS and the Prisoner's Dilemma, 2009) and a prequel (The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict, 2012). And that all of them—that's right, all of them—have been New York Times Bestsellers.

Of course this one, the original, the one that got it all started (ahem, we're talking about The Mysterious Benedict Society here), was a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, an ALA Notable Children's Book, and a winner of the E.B. White Read Aloud Award. Needless to say, Trenton Lee Stewart's mantel is probably full of trophies and plaques. And maybe even a certificate or two.

But forget Stewart's mantel. Just read the book. Go nuts.

 

Why Should I Care?

Why should you care? Because you're a genius. Duh.

"Wait. Who's a genius? I'm a what?" Oh come on—you heard us the first time. You're a genius, silly. At least that's the message (or rather, one of the messages) you'll get from The Mysterious Benedict Society. And no, we're not kidding.

Here's the thing. Two of the characters here (or maybe three or four), have the typical genius thing going on—high IQ, crazy ability to retain information, vast understanding of neuroscience and molecular biology, yada yada yada. But there are a bunch of other characters whose gifts make them geniuses in their own rights, and the idea is that we all have some sort of gift to offer, whether we've discovered it yet or not.

Ever hear of the theory of multiple intelligences? Or Albert Einstein's fish-comparison quote? Because The MBS says something similar—that there are a bunch of different ways to be smart. You can be good at math, good at English, good at reading people or understanding your own inner workings. You might have a talent for figuring out how things work or putting together LEGOS, K'NEX, or furniture from IKEA (now there's an enviable skill). Maybe you can write or play music. Maybe you have a great sense for knowing what you need to survive in the wild or what to take on a hike.

Of course, people can be smart in more than one way, but most of the time one or two of these kinds of intelligence really stand out. And those areas? Well those are your areas of potential genius.

So what are you waiting for? Join the members of The Mysterious Benedict Society as they discover their unique talents and get ready to find a few of your own along the way.

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