Title: The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict
Author: Trenton Lee Stewart
Genre: Children/YA (Ages 9 on up)
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
The Gist: Before there was a Mysterious Benedict Society, there was simply a boy named Nicholas Benedict. Meet the boy who started it all….
Nine-year-old Nicholas Benedict has more problems than most children his age. Not only is he an orphan with an unfortunate nose, but he also has narcolepsy, a condition that gives him terrible nightmares and makes him fall asleep at the worst possible moments. Now he’s being sent to a new orphanage, where he will encounter vicious bullies, selfish adults, strange circumstances — and a mystery that could change his life forever. Luckily, he has one important thing in his favor: He’s a genius.
The Review: I’ve never read any of Trenton Lee Stewart’s books, so I haven’t read any of the books in his Nicholas Benedict series. I don’t remember how I discovered The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict, but I’m glad I did. The cover attracted my attention: I love the color scheme and the drawing style. If I could get this cover poster-size, I would frame it and hang it I think it’s that cool.
I had fun reading The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict. The book deals with bullying so some of the plot is predictable, but Stewart creates distinct characters who creatively deal with their problems in the orphanage.
What I love best about The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict is that Nicholas loves to read. His mind constantly runs and he does not let his narcolepsy stop him from accomplishing his goals. Instead, he incorporates it into his adventures setting up fail safes in case he falls asleep. But it’s not just narcolepsy that Nicholas deals with. The loneliness and trust issues help drive his natural love of reading. The library becomes his refuge and books become his best friends before he really makes any friends at the orphanage. And he puts his knowledge to good use in many ways.
While I am not nearly as smart as Nicholas, nor do I have narcolepsy, and I was never an orphan as a child, I can relate to the loneliness and bullying issues. Like Nicholas, I escaped to books to find solace, to escape, and to acquire knowledge. As an adult, I enjoyed reading a story whose main character (as a child) falls completely in love with books. Any adult bookworm who reads The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict, will relate in some way to this dynamic: childhood trials feed the inborn desire to read thus creating a life-long love affair with books, words, and learning.
Anyway, that’s how The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict hit me. Readers of any age will enjoy the danger, the mystery, the secrecy, and the adventures that Trenton Lee Stewart includes in The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict.