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The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas…

The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict (edition 2013)

by Trenton Lee Stewart (Author)

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9912416,394 (4.25)13
Nine-year-old Nicholas Benedict, an orphan afflicted with an unfortunate nose and with narcolepsy, is sent to a new orphanage where he encounters vicious bullies, selfish adults, strange circumstances, and a mystery that could change his life forever.
Title:The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict
Authors:Trenton Lee Stewart (Author)
Info:Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (2013), Edition: Reprint, 496 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict by Trenton Lee Stewart


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» See also 13 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
It's hard for me to rate this on its own merits instead of comparing it to the other books in the series, and I have to say, it took me a few chapters to really get into it because I kept thinking of how much I missed the MBS kids I'd come to know and love. Nonetheless, I was eventually able to settle into this prequel and enjoy it for its own sake. As usual, this is a great story where brains trump brawn, and the underdog has a shot, albeit a long one, of coming out on top. ( )
  MadMaudie | Sep 5, 2020 |
A delightful, heartwarming, and spirited story. In The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict, a brilliant but lonely orphaned boy discovers an intriguing puzzle and ultimately finds friendship and purpose as he tries to solve it.

Nicholas Benedict is only nine years old, but he has many times more intelligence, curiosity, and resourcefulness than most adults ever attain. But even at such a young age, he’s had a disappointing and difficult life. He’s been passed from one orphanage to another, and life has only ever dealt him hard knocks, injustice, and misfortune. His brilliant mind and memory often get him into trouble, even though it also helps him find ways out of it.

And people, as well as life, have never failed to let him down. He believes that people, especially adults, can’t be trusted, and that relying on himself, and himself alone, is the only way to survive. So he remains independent and constantly on guard against a world that is out to get him.

But despite this disillusionment and difficult life experience, young Nicholas retains an irrepressible, cheerful, wondering, observant, unfailingly optimistic, and lively spirit. He doesn’t let hardship, or anything else, get him down or make him despair, even when life constantly conspires against him. And he continues to fight and wiggle his way out of each unfortunate situation he encounters.

But that spirit is hard to maintain, and he must fight for it. And when everything he’s worked for and hoped in comes crashing down, his endurance and spirit are tested beyond what he’s weathered in the past.


I’ve been a massive a fan of The Mysterious Benedict Society from a young age, starting just after the first book was released. I have fond memories of my excitement when each successive book was released. These books were the first books I bought with my own money, and the first that were an automatic buy as soon as they were published.

I was a little older when the prequel, The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict, was published--a young teen instead of a middle-grader. But reading it for the first time was a magical experience. I think I understood the depth, the themes, and the characters in a more powerful way than I would have as a child--though I don’t think it would be lost on a thoughtful child, so maybe I’d have appreciated it just as much.

I loved this book just as much as the first Mysterious Benedict Society book--which is one of my top few favorite books of all time. I still love both books just as much as I did when I was a kid, and I appreciate the masterful writing, plot, character development, themes, and everything else even more than I used to.

The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict is very different from the main series. Unlike the Mysterious Benedict Society trilogy, prequel lacks the author’s trademark hint of fantasy, futuristic, or dystopian elements in a setting that feels contemporary and modern. Instead, The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict reads much like a gentle, classic historical fiction novel about a past decade, in the writing style, characters, setting, and events. But though quiet, thoughtful, and cheerful, Nicholas’s story is engaging, fascinating, and entertaining. I’ve never met a fan of the Mysterious Benedict Society trilogy--child, teen or adult--who didn’t enjoy the prequel just as much--or more!--than the others in the series. It’s fascinating and wonderful to see an iconic character from the trilogy grow up as a young boy--and to see the influences and qualities that made him the great man he is as an adult.

Nicholas and his story are delightful, sweet, and charming--and very, very touching, and bittersweet as well as joyful. There’s an element of intrigue and slight mystery, which is so fun, and it keeps the plot moving steadily. The depth of emotion and theme are more powerful because of the understated, skilled writing. And the character development is amazing! I love watching NIcholas grow and discover the truth about himself and the world. His personality and character are so winning and fascinating that they make the book amazing. And each of the supporting characters is lifelike and well-developed, as well--even ones who only appear briefly.


One scene of this book made me cry the first time I read it. It’s rare for me to cry in books, and it was unheard-of for me back then. I only cry real tears if I’m deeply, deeply moved, and if it takes me totally by surprise. It helps if it reminds me of something heartbreaking in real life, personal or distant. But I don’t cry when I’m expecting it.

Except that I did cry in the same chapter during this last reread! I knew it was coming. I’ve remembered all this time what I felt when I cried that first time, years ago. But it still moved me so much that I cried again.

Because that chapter broke my heart and healed it in the same moment, both times. It’s a wonderful climax to a bittersweetly touching book. I love the scenes of Nicholas and his loneliness and introspection. And I love the scenes of him making friends for the first time, deep, true friendships. Those things touch me and move me, as does the part when he loses everything.

But the chapter that moves me most, and made me cry, is one near the end, “The Kindness of Strangers.” The protagonist is disillusioned and world-weary at nine years old, and he trusts no one and only relies on himself. He believes the world is a cruel place in which no one will help someone they don’t know. And then a chance encounter changes his life, restores his hope and ideals. It shows him that there are good, caring, and decent people in the world, and that he can be one too. That he can trust someone other than himself. That “there’s some good in this world, and it’s worth fighting for,” to quote Lord of the Rings in a cheesy way.

That’s why this book made me cry years ago and again this month, and why it still continues to move me just as much several rereads later. There is so much more goodness in this book, but that chapter seems especially significant to me, even though it’s different than the rest of the book, and removed from it.

It’s so wonderful to read such a sweet, wholesome book that can be enjoyed equally well by all ages. It’s a juvenile fiction novel, but it’s mature and deep, so teens and adults can appreciate it just as much as middle-grade readers.

I highly recommend The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict to fans of historical fiction or of the main series. And I recommend The Mysterious Benedict Society to anyone who enjoys quality juvenile fiction with a slight hint of futuristic and fantasy elements. And really, to all people!! It’s my favorite juvenile fiction novel by a recent author, which I do not say lightly--it’s fabulous in every way, and I love this prequel just as much as the original. ( )
  Aerelien | Mar 23, 2020 |
This book really takes your sense of childhood and forces you to hold onto it. It's just such a wonderful adventure that really makes you nostalgic of the times that you could let your imagination run wild and maybe find something that you would consider treasure yourself. It's genuinely funny when it wants to be, no characters ever try too hard or are unrealistic. Every character is sensible in their own way and their personalities are consistent. The story doesn't push to finish and it nothing ever drags on for too long. ( )
1 vote GabrielleLashley | Mar 5, 2020 |
The book had an interesting premise: orphan, shipped from orphanage to orphanage, deals with bullies, few friends, too intelligent for his own good, challenge to headmaster, & the treasure....

It was 400+ pages, so it was long & tedious with too much minutiae, and of course an author attempting to be overly clever.

I figured out what the treasure was early on, but became easily bored through-out.

But now I can say I attempted to read this series! ( )
  Auntie-Nanuuq | Nov 13, 2018 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Trenton Lee Stewartprimary authorall editionscalculated
Stewart, Trenton Leemain authorall editionsconfirmed
Stewart, Trenton Leemain authorall editionsconfirmed
Sudyka, DianaIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed

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The train station at Pebbleton, dark and sooty though it was, glistened in the mist.
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Nine-year-old Nicholas Benedict, an orphan afflicted with an unfortunate nose and with narcolepsy, is sent to a new orphanage where he encounters vicious bullies, selfish adults, strange circumstances, and a mystery that could change his life forever.

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