It’s been 10 years since Trenton Lee Stewart’s Mysterious Benedict Society first started challenging readers with mind-bending puzzles and delightful recurring gags.
The first in a series of four, the book follows the story of Reynie Muldoon and the rest of his gifted pals (Washington, Kate, and Constance) as they’re recruited by the mysterious Mr. Benedict to go undercover at the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened to see what its devious head might be planning. But complicating the matter is the school’s one rule: it has no rules. (Though it does have a series of hidden underground tunnels!) The only solution? Banding together and using their different gifts to tackle the mental and physical challenges that await them.
In honor of the book’s 10-year anniversary, EW presents an exclusive look at a full list of Stewart’s recurring jokes (included in the 10th-anniversary edition) below.
Order your copy of the 10th-anniversary edition of The Mysterious Benedict Society here.
Running Jokes and Punning Jokes in the Mysterious Benedict Society Series
HARD HANDSHAKES, HURTFUL HUGS,
AND HIGH-VELOCITY HIGH FIVES
In all three books, whenever Reynie first encounters Kate, he exchanges friendly greetings with her and — because she’s so strong — immediately regrets it.
NOT AGAIN, MILLIGAN
At some point in every book, Milligan seriously injures himself in an effort to help the children. (Fortunately, he’s a quick healer.)
ALMOST AN ARCHIPELAGO?
In all the books, the children’s final confrontation with Mr. Curtain occurs on an island. This pattern is predictably annoying to Constance, who in the end complains, “What is it with this guy and islands?” (She’s referring to Mr. Curtain, but rumor has it the author was also taking the opportunity to make fun of himself.)
FOLLOW THE FOOT PRINCE
Most of the names in the series contain hidden (or not so hidden) meanings, but S.Q. Pedalian’s name, in particular, is a joke within a joke (within a joke). It’s a play on “sesquipedalian” — a long word that means “having a tendency to use long words.” S.Q. does indeed have a tendency to use long words, but he’s clumsy with them, just as he’s physically clumsy, thanks to his extra-big feet. The roots of the word “sesquipedalian” literally mean “one and a half footed” (referring to words that are “a foot and a half” long). All of this amounts to more than enough jokery for one character. But this big-footed name has one last half-joke to play: “S.Q.” sounds suspiciously similar to “Sasquatch,” a well-known name for, well, you know.
What do the initials “S.Q.” stand for? No one can say. Even S.Q. himself has a hard time figuring out what he stands for. (It takes him three books.)
THIRD ISLAND, SIXTH SENSE
Constance has already expressed her irritation with the existence of a third island in the series. But even she might acknowledge that the prison in the story — where she makes critical use of her ability to sense things that others cannot — is fittingly named: Given that the term “the third eye” refers to extrasensory perception or mystical insight, what better place than Third Island (or “third eye land”) for Constance to explore her special gifts?