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A Parent’s Guide to ‘The Mysterious Benedict Society’

The new Disney+ show is here. But what should parents know?

Disney+

A TV show that may make your children eagerly volunteer to turn off the TV and go outside of their own volition? Yes, friends, that is what I am promising you with the new Disney+ The Mysterious Benedict Society. The 8-episode series, set to premiere on June 25th, is inspired by the very popular series of books of the same name.

The show might be for kids, but the entire family will want to hop on for this wild ride. That goes double if you and yours are fans of all things Edward Gorey and/or Lemony Snicket and such equally odd romp-providers. If that has piqued your interest, hold on tight while I answer every single question you may have about The Mysterious Benedict Society.

You’ll thank me after your younglings devour the first trailer and come to you demanding answers.

How many books are in The Mysterious Benedict Society?

Now, this one is surprisingly more complicated to answer than one might usually expect when it comes to serialized fiction. So let’s break it down by publication date, shall we? The first book in the series, The Mysterious Benedict Society, was published in 2007. It was a runaway success, and three sequels to the book followed between 2008 and 2019: The Mysterious Benedict Society and The Perilous Journey, The Mysterious Benedict Society and The Prisoner’s Dilemma, and The Mysterious Benedict Society and The Riddle of Ages.
So, that makes for a series of 4 books, yes? But not quite, because there are two more, though they aren’t strictly a part of The Mysterious Benedict Society series. They are gamebooks for fans of the series called The Mysterious Benedict Society: Mr. Benedict’s Book of Perplexing Puzzles, Elusive Enigmas, and Curious Conundrums and finally a prequel to the entire to-do which centers on the life of Nicholas Benedict himself called The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict. You can absolutely say you’ve read them all if you’ve read the initial four books and the prequel – it’s okay to skip the games book in my estimation.
 

What age level is appropriate for The Mysterious Benedict Society?

The Mysterious Benedict Society books are appropriate for ages 9+ and up – though a canny 9, if that makes sense. While there aren’t elements that I’d worry about scaring a kid, as a parent I’d be more concerned that they were missing out on enough on the puzzle elements of the book as to keep them from really fully enjoying the story. I have found it to be a treat of a series to take turns reading aloud together. It’s also rich in themes that most kids will be able to handily recognize in their own lives – too much TV being a problem, for example. Who doesn’t love good storytelling with the positive message that your own intelligence is a truly formidable weapon? No one, I say! 

What is The Mysterious Benedict Society About?

 The books follow a group of highly intelligent orphaned children. In addition to being parentless (classic trope!), they all have one thing in common: they’ve been recruited by the mysterious Nicholas Benedict to join his eponymous society. His mission? Why that right there is the story of the first book. Benedict seeks to train his four exceptional recruits (Reynie, Sticky, Kate, and Constance) as spies and send them undercover to the L.I.V.E. Institute to thwart his evil twin, Ledroptha Curtain, before his plan to brainwash the world can take place.
The second book (The Mysterious Benedict Society and The Perilous Journey) sees the gang reunited at Benedict’s place – only to discover that the villainous Curtain has kidnapped him! Having left a note with Constance, the children once again must use their wits, solve a series of puzzles, and ride a delightful nape sloop (The MV Shortcut) on the high seas as they seek to rescue Benedict.
The third book (The Mysterious Benedict Society and The Prisoner’s Dilemma) once again centers on the machinations of the relentless Ledroptha Curtain. He is desperate to recover the Whisperer, the same device he used in book one to brainwash the world. It’s been safe in Benedict’s possession ever since, but when Constance receives tragic news about her mysterious past and flees the house and her friends it gives Curtain the chance to steal back his precious gadget. Fun fact – this was originally going to be the final installment in the series!
The fourth book (The Mysterious Benedict Society and The Riddle of Ages) actually takes place a handful of years after the events of the first three books in the series. Both Benedict and his brother the dastardly Curtain are locked in a maximum-security prison of Benedict’s own creation. Curtain is there to pay for his crimes, while Benedict is there to hide from the evil forces who seek to liberate Curtain. This book introduces another mind-reader to join ranks with Constance, a 5-year-old girl named Tai.

Which Mysterious Benedict books will the new Disney+ show cover?

Season one of The Mysterious Benedict Society shares a summary almost identical to the one for the first book in the series. The trailer also seems to indicate that the show’s first season will be dedicated to the plot of the first novel. Where the show will go from there is anyone’s guess. But, should the series choose to stick with a book a season, we’re looking at at least four seasons.