Okay, I’ve already admitted to not loving The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart. But I’m not a tween. I’m certainly not one of Jen’s students, who had all read the book, even if they hadn’t loved it. I figure, while we’re talking about marketing, I’d check out the marketing for The Mysterious Benedict Society and the sequels since it has sold well (the third book, The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner’s Dilemma was #18 on Amazon’s bestseller list of children’s books–you can see where it is today by clicking here). How, other than word of mouth, is this book reaching kids?
The Hatchette Book Group has a dedicated website for the series, complete with mood music that is creepy yet intelligent. There are personality tests (I’m apparently like Sticky), logic challenges, games for the gifted, bookmarks and reading guides, including one for your family that includes games. There is quite a bit of Morse code on the site, in the form of bookmarks and challenges. I think kids have always loved codes or alternate forms of communication, like tin can phones or Pig Latin. The whole book, and the attached site and promotional copy, ask kids if they are “up to the challenge.” I assume this means the challenge of reading a book or participating with these crazy but gifted characters. While I know that in class, someone was worried that kids who read the book and identified as gifted might get big heads, I have to say that I’m not worried about this. In fact, the existence of this website makes me hopeful. This makes being smart cool again. There are some groups of kids (read: Jen’s students) where this doesn’t seem to be a problem. But the teens I’ve worked with are not usually of the same mind. I have met many smart teens who dumb themselves down to fit in with their friends. Being smart is not hip. Younger kids may feel that being smart is cool. However, we’ve talked a lot about how tweens are growing up faster and faster. I might go so far as to say that for many tweens, being smart is certainly not cool. Unless you’re a fan of The Mysterious Benedict Society. (Okay, there are probably other ways to have being smart seem cool, too. I’m ignoring them in this blog.) I think that it could definitely be a positive influence and create a culture where learning and solving puzzles is cool. I think that would be fabulous, though I know that may be more than i can expect from this series of books alone.
The only other online presence, aside from multiple reviews of the books from librarians and parents, is a few Facebook groups. These don’t seem very active, but they do appear to be populated by some tweens. In fact, I learned Mr. Benedict’s first name and the location of his first name in Morse code from one of the discussion threads (on the back cover flap at the bottom). Overall, though, the Facebook pages were less than thrilling and often contained numerous misspellings. This probably isn’t the way tweens are finding out about The Mysterious Benedict Society. My quick Internet search seems to point to this book getting to kids via old-fashioned methods, i.e. being shoved into a friend’s hands because they “have to read this book, it’s sooo good!” And there’s nothing wrong with that.