The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict

Aug 02

This is the fourth in a series of four books:

  1. The Mysterious Benedict Society (Review)
  2. The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey (Review)
  3. The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner’s Dilemma (Review)
  4. The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict (Review)

Technically, The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict by Trenton Lee Stewart is a prequel written after the trilogy (the first three above). This book tells the story of Nicholas Benedict as a child in the Stonetown Orphanage, or as it is currently called, “Child’s End” a nickname for “Rothschild’s End after the people who funded it originally. Nicholas Benedict is being shuffled from one orphanage to another. This new one is in Stonetown, later in the trilogy of the Mysterious Benedict Society, we become quiet acquainted to Stonetown and surrounding areas.

Nicholas Benedict is nine years old and very precocious. Though, he doesn’t mean to be. He is extremely intelligent, insightful and observant. He is also plagued with narcolepsy triggered by strong emotions. He also suffers from terrible nightmares that often wake him panic-stricken in a cold sweat. To make his life even more awkward, Nicholas has a very bulbous nose that almost everyone notices immediately. The odds are stacked against him from the arrival at Child’s End. Here, he will face constant bullying, self-absorbed adults and mysteries he cannot ignore. He is ostracized and ridiculed but this doesn’t stop Nicholas from doing the right thing, time and time again. When hope has seemingly disappeared, Nicholas finds purpose in his struggle, discovering lifelong friendships and positive life views can thrive in any situation, no matter how dismal.

Main Characters in The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict:

  • Nicholas Benedict – A nine year old boy with keen observational skills, excellent deductive reasoning, a genius intellect, an extremely impressive vocabulary and a superb moral compass, Nicholas Benedict is the main character of this book. He has a photographic memory and can remember anything he reads. He is described in the book in the following way, “A tall skinny, towheaded nine-year-old with a whimsical mind, thread-bare clothes and an unfortunate nose. Indeed, his nose was so long and lumpy that it drew attention from his one good feature—his bright and impish green eyes.” Nicholas has a rare form of uncontrollable narcolepsy that is often triggered by strong emotions to which he is in no short supply during his stay at Child’s End. Nicholas later becomes Mr. Benedict, the founder of the Mysterious Benedict Society and the patriarch of the trilogy of the same name.
  • Mrs. Ferrier – She was Nicholas Benedict’s escort from the old orphanage to Child’s End. “A plump old woman with spectacles so large the brim of her hat rested upon their frames…she was not much attached to Nicholas, perhaps because of his habitual impertinence—she thought him too saucy by far.”
  • Mr. Cuckieu – The director of the orphanage from which Nicholas Benedict was leaving.
  • Mr. Collum – The self-important director of Child’s End. “He was a tall man, with a face that appeared mostly as a sharp, jutting chin and cavernous nostrils with pale fingers carefully manicured, except one inky smeary, as clean as soap could make them.” He often refused to talk to children, as if they were invisible and he wanted them to behave as such. Any disturbance, which could be just a question, was met with punishment and extreme irritation by Mr. Collum. He likes order and despises chaos or commotion of any kind. He is miserly and runs the manor as such because his predecessor, Mr. Bottoms, squandered the generous estate left for the orphanage.
  • Mr. Pileus – A red-haired taciturn man in late middle age, older than Mr. Collum. Mr. Pileus was the driver, the handyman, the carpenter and the mechanic. “He has tanned, rough hands [which show every bit of his hard work].” He is a quiet, nervous man who just wants to keep the children and the manor safe and well-run.
  • John Cole– An orphan about twelve years old “with an oval face freckled with pitted scars left over from a terrible case of chicken pox and a dark brown crew cut.” John is a nice guy but knows it is best not to show it in front of the spiders, a trio of boys who terrorize the other orphans. John only recently lost his parents and in many ways does not know what it is like to be an orphan his whole life.
  • The Spiders – A gang of dim-witted but vicious bullies that harass and torment all the orphans. The Spiders were all very tall and big for their age. They quickly grow a particular disdain for Nicholas Benedict. Moray, the leader, was the tallest of the Spiders and had chapped lips, “on his face—round cheeks, dark, round eyes, and a smallish snub nose–all bunched into a circle of concentration so tiny that a coffee cup might have covered them entirely”. Iggy, a “pale lanky boy with a pinched expression, as if he’d just eaten something bitter” who is not very bright, he seems to be the dumbest of them all. Breaker, a “handsome, muscular brute who seemed to already have a mustache, or at least the shadowy beginnings of one,” he is not bright but not quite as dimwitted as Iggy.
  • Mrs. Brindle – The orphanage housekeeper, a widow who suffers from a variety of ailments and a pain that she believes “migrates, unpredictably, from one part of her body to another.” She was so preoccupied with her own woes, she could not be bothered to listen to the children. She didn’t want to be disturbed at all. She was overloaded with tasks to do and with all her ailments found it difficult to keep up. Mrs. Brindle has a crush on Mr. Griese, the cook.
  • Mr. Griese – The Manor’s (Child’s End) cook who had a shiny red face and red scalp which was “mostly bald with only a thin line of short gray hair that began above one ear and ran around the back of his head to the other. Overall, his head bore an uncanny resemblance to a damaged tomato with a trail of fuzzy mold growing on it,” but according to Mrs. Brindle, he never had an unkind word to say to anyone, even if they deserved it.
  • Miss Candace (a.k.a. Miss Pretty Pills) – Child’s End’s nurse, “a petite blonde woman with almond shaped eyes on her bland, flat-looking face with a mottled complexion who wears too much perfume”. She was a bit crazy and loved to give the children some drops of unknown origins that never made anyone feel any better.
  • Mr. and Mrs. Rothschild– Rich couple who left a large part of their fortune and their Manor to become an orphanage. They become of keen interest when Nicholas starts to unravel the mystery of their fortune and the great surprise.
  • Buford – “A meek little orphan boy, freckle-faced, with ears that stuck out like pitcher handles” who was often made to do things by the Spiders as well as teased relentlessly by them.
  • Mr. Furrow – The man who runs the farm and the barber. “He was a wiry, aged man with few teeth and a deep reddish tan, his bristly white hair clip as short as everyone elses with a gray-stubbled chin.”
  • Violet – A pale girl who lives on a farm near Child’s End. She befriends John and Nicholas and the three of them become very close. “A quick and ready learner, and a dutiful daughter.”
  • Sam Harinton – A disheveled kind but serious man who stumbles upon Nicholas or vice-versa. He is an attorney for the government very good at noticing things like Nicholas Benedict. He meets Nicholas Benedict on a train and is a kind, helpful fellow.

Mystery. Intrigue. Fun characters. Strong characteristics born through hardship. This book has it all. Even if you haven’t read the other three, this book is fun on its own! =) But, if you do read The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict, no matter what order (before or after the other three), you will enjoy this story of human follies and triumphs.

They even made a book trailer,

To read more about the Mysterious Benedict Society series and characters, you can visit the official webpage here.

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