The Mysterious Benedict Society books by Trenton Lee Stewart have been a huge hit in my library for the last several years (at one point, a group of sixth grade girls even created their own “society” in honor of their love for the books), so I was excited to see this new book of puzzles arrive in our latest book shipment and immediately grabbed it to peruse. I was not disappointed! Mr. Benedict’s Book of Perplexing Puzzles, Elusive Enigmas, and Curious Conundrums is FUN!
The MBS series follows a small group of genius children through trials, tribulations, and some fabulous puzzle solving as they attempt to defeat the forces of evil. One wonderful feature of the novels is that we, as readers, get to try to solve the brain teasers along with the kids, and the challenges often involve thinking outside the box. When I introduced the first book to classes years ago, I started off each class by putting the chess problem (see * below!) up on the board and having them try to solve it. From there, it was easy to get them excited about reading the book. I can easily think of a number of kids off the top of my head who would love this slim book devoted almost entirely to brain teasers.
One thing I really appreciate about this book is that, while some of the puzzles are more challenging than others, and I had to peek at the solutions in the back a few times, they are all solvable and understandable for kids. The wonderful illustrations by Diana Sudyka and descriptions of characters from the novels add some humor and whimsy as well. My plan for my 5th grade classes this week is to give them some of the challenges to solve, and I suspect it will be a lot of fun for them, and for me! I also suspect I will get a lot of holds on the book!
*From The Mysterious Benedict Society: “The next page showed a picture of a chessboard, upon which all the pieces and pawns rested in their starting positions, except for a black pawn, which had advanced two spaces. The question read: ‘According to the rules of chess, is this position possible?’ Reynie studied the board a moment, scratched his head, and wrote down his answer: YES.” Reynie is correct. Can you figure out why/how?
P.S. I am also going to possibly give out this old challenge that I remember doing when I was a kid of about middle school age!