‘Encyclopedia Brown’ Author Donald J. Sobol Dead at 87
If you went to elementary school in the last 40 or so years, chances are you read Donald J. Sobol’s Encyclopedia Brown series. The brainy title character’s mystery solving antics were punctuated with puns and humorous wordplay to keep young readers interested and entertained. Each book contained several mysteries (usually 10) to be solved by the reader, with an answer section in the back of the book. (Children everywhere are invariably tempted to flip to the back of the book while reading.)
The first Encyclopedia Brown was rejected over two-dozen times by various publishing houses before finally being published in 1963. It’s hard to imagine what the editors who passed it up saw that made them reject it: Sobol’s mystery and humor formula had “children’s classic” written all over it.
Sobol’s series and its namesake became ubiquitous enough to permeate other areas of pop-culture, including a reference in The Simpsons and an homage from Franklin Bruno in “Epistemophilia,” a classic Nothing Painted Blue song. The books also spawned a syndicated comic strip and a TV series.
Sobol said of Encyclopedia Brown, “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.” This quote says a lot about why Encyclopedia Brown continues to live on in the imaginations of children today, even if The Onion decided to kill the character off.
Click this link if you’d like to donate in Donald J. Sobol’s memory to Children’s Services at The New York Public Library.
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