Tag: young adult

The Mysterious Benedict Society | Trenton Lee Stewart

I occasionally meet a book that doesn’t want me to to tell you a thing about it. Part of the appeal of these books is letting the story lead the me where it wants to go, rather than expecting it to stick to the itinerary mapped out on the back of the book. I know nothing about it when I start but the title, the author’s name, and the name of the reliable friend who brought it to my attention, and that is a pleasure.

The Mysterious Benedict Society (review) | Little Book, Big Story

I want you, if possible, to have this pleasure with The Mysterious Benedict Society. After a few pages, Lydia announced that this book is, indeed, mysterious, and though I’d read it once before, I agreed. Trenton Lee Stewart invites us into a world that is colorful and quirky, that is like ours and yet not like it (for an example of what I mean, consider Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events), but he introduces us to it slowly, giving us only what we need to keep reading. That is all I will tell you about the plot: it is mysterious, quirky, and fascinating.

The Mysterious Benedict Society (review) | Little Book, Big Story

I will tell you a few things more about the book itself, though:

  1. The quirkiness of the story does not undermine its seriousness. The characters face real danger and tough moral conflicts. They sometimes make the wrong choices; sometimes, they make questionable choices for the right reasons. Stewart deals skillfully with those moments, acknowledging that sometimes our choices are made in murky circumstances, and the outcomes are beyond our control. He gives his characters room to wrestle with doubt, too, and that lead to some great conversations on our couch. But there is, under all of this, a clear theme of sacrifice. It’s beautiful.
  2. The Mysterious Benedict Society is illustrated by Carson Ellis, one of my favorite illustrators ever. That may be the reason I picked this book up in the first place.
  3. This is the first of four books, and the only one I’ve read (perhaps because it’s the only one illustrated by Carson Ellis?). But Lydia has moved on to the second book and assures me that it’s just as good as the first.

The Mysterious Benedict Society (review) | Little Book, Big Story

Now, that is all I’ll give you. That and the hearty exhortation to go forth and read this book!


The Mysterious Benedict Society
Trenton Lee Stewart, Carson Ellis (2008)

The Wingfeather Saga | Andrew Peterson

The trouble with reviewing only books that I like is that I have to find one hundred clever ways to say, “I liked this book.” I try to throw out the adjectives—beautiful! amazing! wonderful!—and do my best to explain what I liked about a book and why you might like it, too.

But I couldn’t do that here. My first thought when I sat down to write was THESE BOOKS ARE AMAZING!

My new favorite series: The Wingfeather Saga, by Andrew Peterson | Little Book, Big Story

For three drafts, I couldn’t get past it. Every time I opened this post, that sentence—These books are amazing—beat the rest of the English language out of my head. Andrew Peterson has written exactly the sort of story I was longing for when I wrote about the difficulty of crafting Christian characters, and he has done it in a way that reminds me fondly of Lemony Snicket, Harry Potter, and Narnia all at once.

Peterson’s sense of timing is just right, his use of language is a beautiful thing to behold, and his jokes are spot on. I liked Andrew Peterson immediately for having the sense to throw in that extra “dark” in the title of the first book, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness. Without it, the title would be bland. With it, it was perfect. (The title of the second book—North! Or Be Eaten—is even better.)

The Wingfeather Saga, by Andrew Peterson | Little Book, Big Story

Peterson’s world of Aerwiar is full of wonders—new hollows, and deeps and cities to discover with each story—but I can’t tell you much about the adventures Janner, Tink, and Leeli Igiby have in it without spoiling major plot points. But oh, how I want to! I wanted badly to discuss these books with someone as I read, but I could think of only one other person I knew who had read them—he is ten and was out of town—so I was left to laugh, cry, and rejoice alone.

(Mitch is reading them now, so that shall soon be remedied.)

The Wingfeather Saga, by Andrew Peterson | Little Book, Big Story

These books are exactly what I think art by Christians ought to be: beautiful and complex, joyful but brutally sad at times, and so well-crafted that they faithfully reflect the work of our Creator. They are not safe or neatly allegorical. They do not close with a sterile moral. But while Andrew Peterson’s Wingfeather Saga tells a story framed in a Christian worldview, that story is not told only to Christians. It is a great story by any standards that points, in the right places, toward the Gospel.

In the words of Oskar Reteep (quoting Shank Po), I exhort you: “Get thee busy.” You have books to read.


The Wingfeather Saga
Andrew Peterson (2008-2014)