by Trenton Lee Stewart
This is a prequel to the Mysterious Benedict Society trilogy. I've written of them in my book reports recently as I previewed them for First Son. I enjoyed them quite a bit though I was a little disappointed in the third one.
I almost didn't read this newest book, but I had read a few reviews that claimed it was the best of the four so I decided to go ahead. I'm so glad I did!
In this book, Mr. Stewart goes back in time to the young Nicholas Benedict, the remarkable man who seems to attract people as remarkable as he is in intelligence, pattern recognition, and generosity. Nicholas is an orphan who has learned to distrust people, especially adults, and to defend himself against the derision and teasing of his peers for his small size, unusual vocabulary, and large nose, not to mention that pesky narcolepsy.
I don't want to spoil anything for you, but through the chance meeting of a kind gentleman on a train, Nicholas learns not only that there are good people in the world, but something much more profound about himself.
I almost want to read this story aloud to the whole family, but I think there are some dialogues that would work best if read. If not, this book is certainly on First Son's list for independent reading for this coming summer (after fourth grade). For many reasons, this book may appeal to a larger age range than the trilogy and could be read independently of them, but there are instances of severe bullying, adults who are not able to stop the bullying, and, of course, orphans whose parents have died, some more recently than others. There's nothing too graphic in the bullying scenes, though there are fights, but the fear of attack by the bullies is present throughout the novel.