Reading/Interest Level: Intermediate
Author: Trenton Lee Stewart
Illustrator: Carson Ellis
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Reader
Reynard (Reynie) Muldoon is exceptionally intelligent--and lonely. He has lived all of his life in an orphanage with no friends and no memories of home and family. When he exceeds the abilities of the orphanage teachers, he asks to be transferred to a more advanced school but is provided a tutor instead, Miss Perumal. While perusing the newspaper one day, Reynie finds a test advertisement that could provide him an opportunity to do something important. Miss Perumal convinces the orphanage director to let him try. The tests are difficult but Reynie passes with flying colors. Mr. Benedict and his two assistants have discovered that the world is in danger and that only children can come to the rescue. He sends Reynie and three other children to The Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened, where they discover a secret plot to control the minds of everyone everywhere. These four ingenious children pull together to find the courage they need, the power they have within, and the ability to work together just in time.
This book hooks the reader from page one. Reynie, the main character is a natural leader and solver of riddles. He is an honest, gentle soul with a depth of understanding that makes his character vulnerable, despite his insight and reason. The four main characters each balance one another with electrical force as readers root for them singly and as a group. They are characters who have each taken personal struggles and developed strength and resourcefulness as a result. The courage and devotion shown in the final struggle is especially uplifting and unexpected. The mystery is filled with fun foreshadowing and each revelation leads breathlessly to the next. The undercurrent themes are excellent: evil can pervade subtly and softly, hidden messages travel incognito through media, courage happens when you're scared, friends can become family, small things can topple mighty plans, and sacrifices are necessary to achieve great goals. This is an outstanding novel with overt and elusive messages that will ring true at every level.