Learning from Encyclopedia Brown

Stories that you read as a child really stick with you. I think most people remember the little picture books they first read when they were younger. One of the first books I loved to read on my own was about a cat that lived in a firehouse.

I’ve always loved mysteries – Nancy Drew was of course exceedingly popular for me (on a related note: I’m making a purse out of an old Nancy Drew book I picked up at an antique store!), but Encyclopedia Brown was another early childhood favorite.

I thought about little Leroy Brown for the first time in a long time last week, while reading articles about the passing of author Donald Sobol.

Click on the picture to read the Washington Post article

I love reading all the comments in the articles with everyone talking about their favorite Encyclopedia Brown mystery. The one case that really sticks out to me was the one where he solves the case by pointing out that a baby was sitting on the hood of a car — she wasn’t crying, meaning the car wasn’t hot, so the father couldn’t have been gone like he had claimed.

How clever is that?

As a child, I just thought Encyclopedia Brown was so smart for figuring that out. But now as a wannabe-writer-in-progress, I’m amazed at how clever Donald Sobol was for coming up with the mysteries that Encyclopedia Brown had to solve.

I’m sure many authors worry about not being creative or clever enough. Or, at least, I hope they do and I’m not the only one!

I didn’t realize that Sobol had still been writing the Encyclopedia Brown stories (the final book will come out in October), or that there was a comic strip featuring mini-mysteries (thanks, Wikipedia)! How fun! I did watch the tapes of the HBO show – we would check them out from the library as kids.

‘Readers constantly ask me if Encyclopedia Brown is a real boy. The answer is no,’ Mr. Sobol once said. ‘He is, perhaps, the boy I wanted to be – doing the things I wanted to read about but could find in any book when I was 10.’

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