All summer long, my son has been on an Encyclopedia Brown kick – reading every book about the boy detective that the library owns. The stories about the clever kid who solves mysteries with his brains are interesting and fun, and my son loves to read them out loud – and challenge me to figure things out before Encyclopedia does. I never do. And so it was with great sadness that we heard that Donald Sobol, the author of this beloved series, died this week at 87.
According to the New York Times obituary, Mr. Sobol wrote 28 Encyclopedia Brown books through the years, the last one just before he died. Fortunately, we can look forward to reading Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Soccer Scheme this October.
In all of the flashiness of today’s books for children – with magic and futuristic worlds and fantastical creatures dominating the genre – Encyclopedia Brown is refreshingly ordinary. He lives in a small town with his father and mother, has a tough girl sidekick named Sally Kimball, and a nemesis named Bugs Meany. Funny things happen in the books, and there are certainly some dramatic moments, but mostly their appeal lies in how Encyclopedia uses his knowledge of facts -- both big and small -- to solve mysteries. The stories are like little puzzles, and there is much satisfaction and pleasure in looking for clues and matching your wits against those of the boy detective.
Thank you, Donald, for a great character and for so many tricky puzzles to solve through the years. The books are as good today as they were when they first came out, and parents looking for an engaging series for their children need look no further than the books about a boy called Encyclopedia.