Welcome to Masters of Mystery Monday, where each week we feature a fictional detective and examine his or her unique contribution to mystery fiction. This week:
Donald Sobol’s Encyclopedia Brown
Some interesting facts about the Encyclopedia Brown series:
1. The Encyclopedia Brown books began in 1963, with Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective. The series has been in print continuously since then, with the most recent book (#27), Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Carnival Crime, published this year.
2. LeRoy “Encyclopedia” Brown, “the greatest super-sleuth in sneakers,” is the son of the police chief of Idaville, Florida, and operates his own detective business out of his garage. He charges “25 cents a day, plus expenses.”
3. The books are considered Middle-Grade reader, and the mysteries of each book are usually linked short stories, where each can be read in a single sitting. It is written in “puzzle challenge” style, where the reader is given all of the clues along the way, so that he or she can solve the puzzles before finding out the solutions, which are given in an “Answers” section in the back of the book.
4. The series has been translated into 12 languages, and has won numerous children’s book awards and the Edgar Award from Mystery Writers of America.
The appeal of Encyclopedia Brown and the series:
1. His sidekick is Sally Kimball; she’s smart and tough, and acts as Encyclopedia’s bodyguard, and she intimidates the bullies who would love to beat up Brown. Love it.
2. Bugs Meany (and his bully gang) is often the antagonist of the stories. When Brown gets the best of him and there’s nothing Bugs can do about it, you can imagine how satisfying that would be to young readers.
3. The puzzles themselves are interesting, and stay within the bounds of fair play for a middle-grade audience.
4. Adults rarely need to get involved in solving the problems that arise for the kids of the neighborhood (not that adults would understand, anyway, right?). In this world, Encyclopedia Brown helps the kids take care of things themselves, and dispense justice. What child wouldn’t find that appealing?
Beyond the books:
HBO aired a series of 8 Encyclopedia Brown episodes, starring Scott Bremner and Laura Bridge:
Great sites for more info:
Do you remember Encyclopedia Brown from your childhood reading? Who was your favorite childhood book character? I’d love to hear from you!
Until next time,