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The Mysterious Benedict Society is now a miniseries on Disney Plus. Nobody will be surprised to learn the book is better.
The title is actually the title of the entire series, too, which now includes five books–the original, three sequels, and a prequel. Of the five, the original is clearly the best, a modern classic. The others books are just “fun reads”, written for pre-teens. I may be biased, but I think the original book is worth reading as an adult.
The book is wholesome, with clear lines drawn between good and evil both in the external world and within individual characters. It cannot be called a conservative book, because it doesn’t have an underlying message. Rather, it explores themes. It does not attempt to indoctrinate, but it’s the kind of book that makes kids think about questions and allows them to make up their own minds.
With that being said, I think the book was quite prescient regarding one particular aspect in the modern state of the world. (It was published in 2007). This may have been intended as a bit of commentary on something that was happening then, but it’s spot on regarding the situation we have gotten ourselves into during 2021.
Watching the miniseries has reminded me of this a bit. There is a bit of softening and blurring of the themes, and one particular line was changed in a way that irritated me because it diluted what had been a clear moral statement. But the elements that made the book prescient and excellent are there, buried underneath the weirdness that happens when a book is adapted for television.
I have always felt that children’s fiction and middle grade novels have more space to be genuine than genres written for teenagers and adults. Young Adult literature, in particular, often feels like a vehicle for sappy romance. C.S. Lewis argues that adults never really outgrow fairy tails, and I feel this way about The Mysterious Benedict Society, although it’s not quite a fairy tale.Published in