I was thrilled to learn that Trenton Lee Stewart, the author of The Mysterious Benedict Society books, is writing a prequel to his middle-grade series. The prequel is titled The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict.

Before I go on, I have to acknowledge that I have a somewhat personal connection to Stewart—we're both from Arkansas, and I profiled him for a Little Rock newspaper before I started working for BookPage. (I also moderated his session at last year's Southern Festival of Books and reviewed The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemma for BookPage.com.)

The Mysterious Benedict Society series is about four very different children: steadfast, clever and "average" Reynie (the star of the books); adventurous Kate; brainy Sticky; and mind-reading, cranky and hilarious Constance. The four kids are recruited to help the genius Nicholas Benedict prevent evil Mr. Curtain from taking over the world. One of the great things about the series is that the lovable four main characters are so distinct that practically every child can find someone to identify with.

Prisoner's Dilemma—which has a conclusive ending—was supposed to be the final book in The Mysterious Benedict Society series, although Stewart has acknowledged that the decision wasn't set in stone.

The prequel, set for a spring 2012 release from Megan Tingley Books, will follow "a brilliant young boy named Nicholas Benedict, who has his own unusual friends and his own mystery to solve."

I guarantee that there are many children and teachers who will be overjoyed by this news—there was a packed crowd at the early-Saturday morning Southern Festival of Books signing, and many hands shot up immediately after Stewart's reading. (Not to mention that book one in the series was on the New York Times children's bestseller list for a year.)

Do you or your kids/students read The Mysterious Benedict Society books? Are you excited about the prequel?

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