#TBT: Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective

Throwback Thursdays

Remembered because …

It was one of the first books I ever read and the first book series I ever followed.

First published in 1964 by Donald J. Sobol, and discovered by yours truly somewhere in the 80s, this series made me fall in love with mysteries.

I had to have been in the third or fourth grade when I discovered this book in my school library. Third graders had the privilege of checking out books from the school library to read in class during down times. I remember discovering this beloved series. It was toward the back corner of the small library and I remember noticing it because there was a whole bunch of books with similar style covers and I noticed numbers on the spine. Curious, I stopped to investigate and pulled out Book One. I was smitten, instantly. If only because I thought Encyclopedia was such a cool nickname (this was the start of my love cool nicknames, by the way–like Nobody in Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book). I was so curious about this boy, nick named Encyclopedia, who helped his father solve cases. Like, actually police cases! And over dinner!

Of course I kept going back and continued reading the series when allowed to. There are three cases that continue to stick in my mind, even after all these years (because we’re talking twenty something years here). I can’t remember their respective chapter titles i.e. “Encyclopedia Brown and the case of …” nor do I remember which book they came from, but I remember the reason he solves the case. The first being that the robbers loaded the patient into the ambulance incorrectly. The necessary medical equipment is usually found at the “back” of the loading area so the patient should have been wheeled in head first not feet first into the ambulance. The second one being the thief couldn’t have been the boy with the broken arm, even though the item was found on him because why would he put the item in his left pocket when his left arm is broken and in a sling? He would have had to reach across his body to put the item in his pocket. And the last one being the shirt belonged to a girl and not the boy because the button holes were on the left side of the shirt and not the right. And is because women’s shirts have the button holes on the right side so there are less chances of “exposure” to their passengers when they are driving.

And lessons like that were added to my brain, along with random tidbits. Like I’m sure it was because of this series I know that odd numbers are the front of the page while even numbers are on the back. And if it’s not directly because of Encyclopedia Brown it’s because of my love of mysteries, which started with him.

Unfortunately, I stopped reading the series somewhere in the fourth grade. My family moved and my new school didn’t have the series. I didn’t rediscover (when my mom could, she would take us to the public library in home town) public libraries until middle school, but I never forgot Encyclopedia Brown.

The series spans 29 books from the years 1963 to 2012, the last one published posthumously. It is one of my reading goals to return to this series and finish it all.

Hats off to you, Donald Sobol, for creating a mystery series that was fun and easy to follow! You are the first author to turn me into a repeat offender.

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