By Trenton Lee Stewart
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, $17.99, 470 pages

Nicholas Benedict is not the new kid on the block. He’s the star of three previous books about the unique Benedict Society. He’s what kids call a ‘brain’ and tackles mystifying problems and assignments with courage and panache. He has impeccable manners, a wicked sense of humor and, with more emphasis in this particular book, an unfortunate disposition to narcolepsy. He is a very precocious, deceptively sassy nine-year-old.

In this contemporary tale, which almost slides into the genre of science fiction (as the goings-on tend to be wacko), we are taken back a year or so in an invigorating prequel wherein the hero is sent to a new orphanage that reeks of Victorian-era nastiness.

The book is every bit as entertaining as its predecessors, at least to this adult reader. However, the concept of a prequel doesn’t sit quite as well with youngsters, so I’d hate to predict an absolute success. But rest assured, kids who thrive on long words and read with a dictionary close by will be enchanted as their vocabulary soars beyond grade level.

Reviewed by Jane Manaster