Stewart, Trenton Lee. The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict.
10 April 2012, Little, Brown
Nominated for the Cybils by Deb Nance
Nine-year-old orphan Nicholas is taken to the orphange at Rothschild's End and put in the care of Mr. Collum. Since Nicholas has narcolepsy triggered by excitement or stress and can fall asleep suddenly as well as nightmares that make him scream, Mr. Collum assigns him to a small, windowless room by himself where he is locked in at night. Things get even worse-- bullies called Spiders are constantly making his life difficult, and life at the orphanage is bleak. He does make a friend in John, and enlists him in helping to solve the mystery of the Rothschild's lost treasure, which Mr. Collum is also seeking. Nicholas has a photographic memory and can read freakishly fast, so he uncovers lots of clues, some of which lead him to an abandoned observatory, where he also meets Violet, a local girl who is deaf and dreaming of going to an art school. Can Nicholas find the treasure in order to save the orphanage from closing, and can he also save himself from a bleak future?
Strengths: Although Surly Teen Boy adored these, I had trouble getting into them. This was by far my favorite of the series, which I now feel that I should go back and reread. It is NOT fantasy, but I really can't remember anything about the books.
Weaknesses: I didn't care for the pictures. They somehow didn't match the story in the way the illustrations in Mary Rose Wood's Incorrigible Children series match. Even Chris Riddell illustrations would have been better.