Kids who are itching for a boarding-school-set fantasy-adventure in between visits to Hogwarts might pleasantly pass the time listening to this quirky tale, which is narrated with panache and a tone of childlike curiosity by Roy. When an ad reading "Are you a gifted child looking for special opportunities?" appears in a local paper, it's hard for many children to resist. But only four out of dozens pass the rigorous mind-bending tests that prove they are special and talented enough to undertake a mysterious mission at the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened (as assigned by narcoleptic benefactor Mr. Benedict). Reynie, Kate, Sticky and Constance band together using their unique gifts (be it for photographic memory, puzzle-solving or acrobatics) to uncover the dastardly plot of the Learning Institute's founder, Ledroptha Curtain. Roy's voice, masculine and scratchy, but able to reach a youthful high pitch, is an enjoyable companion for the four protagonist's exploits. Though some of Mr. Curtain's plans sound preposterously convoluted, they are humorously so. Listeners are rewarded when all wraps up nicely by program's end. Ages 10-up. (Mar.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Gr 5-9-After Reynie Muldoon responds to an advertisement recruiting "gifted children looking for special opportunities," he finds himself in a world of mystery and adventure. The 11-year-old orphan is one of four children to complete a series of challenging and creative tasks, and he, Kate, Constance, and Sticky become the Mysterious Benedict Society. After being trained by Mr. Benedict and his assistants, the four travel to an isolated school where children are being trained by a criminal mastermind to participate in his schemes to take over the world. The young investigators need to use their special talents and abilities in order to discover Mr. Curtain's secrets, and their only chance to defeat him is through working together. Readers will challenge their own abilities as they work with the Society members to solve clues and put together the pieces of Mr. Curtain's plan. In spite of a variety of coincidences, Stewart's unusual characters, threatening villains, and dramatic plot twists will grab and hold readers' attention. Fans of Roald Dahl or Blue Balliett will find a familiar blend of kid power, clues, and adventure in Society, though its length may daunt reluctant or less-secure readers. Underlying themes about the power of media messages and the value of education add to this book's appeal, and a happy ending with hints of more adventures to come make this first-time author one to remember.-Beth L. Meister, Pleasant View Elementary School, Franklin, WI Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.