Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Sad Readers

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Sad news, detectives. Donald J. Sobol, the creator of Encyclopedia Brown, passed away on July 11 at the age of 87. Sobol wrote 28 books starring 10-year-old Leroy Brown, with the next one, Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Soccer Scheme, scheduled to come out this fall. In honor of Sobol, here are a few interesting facts about everyone's favorite reasonably priced detective. (25 cents plus expenses!)

1. Encyclopedia Brown isn't based on anyone "“ at least, not really. "He is, perhaps, the boy I wanted to be -- doing the things I wanted to read about but could not find in any book when I was ten," Sobol once said.
2. Looking at Sobol's bibliography, it's actually pretty clear that his interests were just as varied as those of the boy he wrote about. He published more than 65 books, but many of them aren't children's books or even fiction. His nonfiction titles included The First Book of Stocks and Bonds and Lock, Stock and Barrel, a collection of short biographies of men in the Revolutionary War. He also wrote The Wright Brothers of Kitty Hawk, a fictional biography of Orville and Wilbur.

3. Encyclopedia Brown wasn't Sobol's first go at writing mysteries. Just prior to his success in the world of children's books, Sobol wrote "Two Minute Mystery," a syndicated column. He later created the similarly titled Two Minute Mysteries, a series aimed at kids a bit older than the E.B. audience.

4. More than 50 million Encyclopedias have been sold, with 7.5 million currently in print.

5. Idaville, Florida, doesn't actually exist, although you can find an Idaville in Indiana, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Tennessee. So why Idaville? Sobol never said for sure, but I suspect it has something to do with the fact that his mother was called Ida.

6. Usually, Sobol stumps readers. But on at least one occasion, readers stumped him. In 1990, some students wrote to Sobol about a story that involving a dishonest kid sneaking a hard-boiled egg into a carton for an egg-spinning contest. But the way the story was written made it seem that inexplicably, the kid would have hidden his hard-boiled egg in the carton before it was ever purchased from the grocery store. Sobol picked up the story and reread it for the first time since it had been published 30 years prior and realized the students were right. He corrected it and newer editions make more sense.

7. E.B. made it to HBO in 1989, but he didn't last long. It was a live-action series with 30-minute episodes, but our detective couldn't solve The Case of the Low Ratings and the series was canceled after just 10 shows.

8. Topless Robot ranked the top 10 most impossible-to-solve EB mysteries. Check them out and see if you agree. Coming in at #1? The Case of the Kidnapped Pigs from Encyclopedia Brown Saves the Day.

9. Ever found yourself going back through an old Encyclopedia mystery and felt a little bad that you couldn't even solve them as an adult? Don't feel too bad. "I couldn’t solve the mysteries if I didn’t write them," Sobol once admitted. "You know my worst secret."

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July 16, 2012 - 12:22pm
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