Booklist starred (February 1, 2012 (Vol. 108, No. 11))
Grades 4-6. Meet Nicholas Benedict, a skinny nine-year-old orphan with a lumpy nose, an extraordinary intellect, and an inconvenient tendency to fall asleep when he is excited. Newly arrived at his latest orphanage (Rothchild’s End, ominously shortened to ’Child’s End), Nicholas quickly learns to avoid the Spiders (a gang of bullies) as best he can. Meanwhile, he secretly searches for the treasure rumored to be hidden in the dilapidated mansion and finds a couple of steadfast friends. With courage and ingenuity, he solves the mystery at the heart of the orphanage and even sets in motion a plan to defang the Spiders. This prequel to The Mysterious Benedict Society (2007) gives readers a reason to fall in love with the series all over again. Fans of the series will find here much that they loved in the opening volume: adventures, danger, cleverness, dry wit, and good-hearted characters at the center of the action. The novel is long, true, but many readers will find themselves reluctant to reach the end; and while Stewart leaves an opening for sequels about Nicholas as a child, this invigorating novel stands on its own. Two hundred years after Dickens’ birth, this orphan story plays notes in a familiar key but creates its own memorable tune. HIGH DEMAND BACK STORY: The popularity of The Mysterious Benedict Society and its sequels provides a built-in audience for this. Name recognition!