One of my recent favorite books is The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart. In this book, dozens of children respond to a peculiar ad in the newspaper and are then put through a series of mind-bending tests, which readers take along with them. Only four children-two boys and two girls-succeed. Their challenge: to go on a secret mission that only the most intelligent and inventive children could complete. To accomplish it they will have to go undercover at the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened, where the only rule is that there are no rules. But what they'll find in the hidden underground tunnels of the school is more than your average school supplies.
My fourth graders and I are reading it together. They all have their own copy of the book, a gift from Donors Choose. They are learning to highlight and make notes as they read. We are having a weekly literature circle to discuss specific questions related to our reading. At the bottom of this article, I have attached the roles that are assigned to students in preparation for the literature circle.
My fourth graders had learned about Morse Code during our Westward Expansion unit, but they didn't get enthusiastic about it until they saw it was a component in this great book. There are so many puzzles that the characters have to solve in this story, and my students are having a great time trying to solve them as well. It's stretching their creative thinking and their logical problem-solving abilities.
Check out a student-created trailer of the book. Oh, and there are two sequels as well as a prequel !!! Check it out and let me know what you and your students think. We'd love to correspondence with other classes that read the book. We're on Twitter @searcyTAG.