Saturday, March 31, 2012

Mysterious Benedict Society/Riddles in the Dark

So, earlier this week (Tuesday), Janice played a little of the following NPR interview for me, with Trenton Lee Stewart, the author of the MYSTERIOUS BENEDICT SOCIETY books talking about the series. Two great take-aways for me: (1) his hometown is Little Rock, Arkansas, where we lived for a year when I was growing up* -- a great city, but not widely known as a writers' mecca -- and (2) one of his inspirations for the puzzles his four young characters are constantly confronted with and must overcome with their own (considerable) native resources was the chapter "Riddles in the Dark" by JRRT. He also mentions WATERSHIP DOWN (a good sign!) as another example of a book he liked growing up, and about his goal of "finding my way into a big adventure". Here's the link.

So far I've only read the first book and the opening section of the second. First came across them at the Borders in Federal Way (now defunct, alas), and introduced them to Janice (who has also now read and enjoyed them). I particularly like this as a story about oddballs finding family and friendship with other oddballs and because one of the messages of the book is that there's more than one right answer to most questions, more than one right way of dealing with most dilemmas.** One of the four has photographic memory and solves puzzles logically, by working through all the variables. Another uses physical solutions to circumvent roadblocks in her way. Another simply refuses to accept the terms of some loaded offers. The narrator, most ingeniously of all, thinks outside the box, often looking at the literal meaning of the question or direction or challenge and finding ways to side-step what seemed insoluble problems. "The world's not always either/or" is a good message for young adults to learn.

But mainly, of course, these are good because they're enjoyable to read. Recommended!

--John R.

*(at the Georgetown apartments, 1313 Nottingham Road, 'A Charming Place to Live' -- still there, and still looking much the same, the last time I swung by during one of my visits to Little Rock just last year)

**in fact, now that I think about it, the right/wrong choice implied in the very word dilemma runs counter to the message of these books.

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