This academic year has been the junction of mental, physical, financial, sociopolitical and educational tribulations. For the first time in over a year, I fell back into my chosen coping mechanism: reading till the literal dawn. Serendipitously, I’d also discovered that night that Trenton Lee Stewart had quietly published a sequel to my all-time favourite trilogy from childhood last year. The Mysterious Benedict Society was – and is – so pivotal in my life it’s impossible to articulate how uplifting this news was. Or how marvellous the series is. But I’ll give it a go.
The foundation of the books’ brilliance is this: penned for and about preteens, they nonetheless discuss at length logic as a discipline, moral philosophy, political philosophy, educational psychology, the history of science, literature, and cultural representation – on top of having cracker plots and characterisations (concepts many children’s books conveniently condescend to oversimplify, or worse, omit).
The spirit of the series is difficult to describe. It’s inimitable. Comforting, nostalgic, a veritable dose of natsukashii*. Wickedly clever and sly. And Trenton Lee Stewart extrapolated all this and more, ten years after the original trilogy began. I cannot recommend his work enough. Go read!
*懐かしい – the warm sentimentality of fond memories; the aesthetic that sees beauty in something not being quite complete, in longing, in impermanence, wistfulness, melancholy.