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July 16, 2012 10:14 AM   Subscribe

Donald J. Sobol, creator of Encyclopedia Brown, is dead at 87.
posted by mightygodking (139 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
Clearly, Bugs did it.
posted by fungible at 10:16 AM on July 16, 2012 [21 favorites]


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posted by wikipedia brown boy detective at 10:16 AM on July 16, 2012 [9 favorites]




Are they sure it's Donald J. Sobel? it might be a fake.....
posted by easily confused at 10:17 AM on July 16, 2012


Best critical thinking role model EVER.

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posted by Aquaman at 10:17 AM on July 16, 2012 [8 favorites]


Previously.
posted by Algebra at 10:17 AM on July 16, 2012


Has anyone heard from Bugs Meany?
posted by jonmc at 10:18 AM on July 16, 2012


Damn.
posted by jonmc at 10:18 AM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


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posted by askmehow at 10:18 AM on July 16, 2012


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posted by gauche at 10:18 AM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


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posted by postcommunism at 10:24 AM on July 16, 2012


I liked his "one minute mysteries" too, when I thought I had outgrown Encyclopedia Brown. Even though some of the mysteries overlapped.
posted by chavenet at 10:24 AM on July 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


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posted by dlugoczaj at 10:25 AM on July 16, 2012


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posted by pointystick at 10:25 AM on July 16, 2012


Huh, I had no idea he was a real person. I thought it was a collective pseudonym setup like with Franklin W. Dixon, Carolyn Keene or Dan Brown.
posted by griphus at 10:26 AM on July 16, 2012 [11 favorites]


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posted by Sticherbeast at 10:26 AM on July 16, 2012


I'm tempted to leave a comma as the subtle yet crucial clue which will eventually unravel my attempt to pass myself off as a Mefite.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:27 AM on July 16, 2012 [14 favorites]


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posted by jquinby at 10:28 AM on July 16, 2012


I knew he was lying about not driving the car, because when Encyclopedia put his hand on the hood, it was warm.

I don't remember the title of the story, but that is the key clue in one of the mysteries. Why I remember that 35 years after I read it is a yet another mystery.
posted by COD at 10:29 AM on July 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


I loved those books as a kid. I remember reading one for the first time and getting to the end of the chapter only to find out I was supposed to figure it out. That was just about the coolest thing I'd ever seen up until that point. I never did manage to figure any of them out on my own. I mean, what ten year old knows that "the lady" is supposed to sit on the outside of a restaurant table so that she can be admired by all the men? That's bullshit.

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posted by bondcliff at 10:31 AM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Encyclopedia Brown books as well as the Happy Hollister books instilled a life long love of mysteries in me as well as a desire to figure stuff out and not be a passive reader.

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posted by agatha_magatha at 10:32 AM on July 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Although I've never quite forgiven him for "Encyclopedia Brown Takes the Cake" ("No, children, I will NOT read you recipes as a bedtime story!"), going back and reading his books to my kids these past few years gave me a whole new respect for the tight structure he was working with--always starting with an introductory story about where Leroy Brown's nickname came from, with him helping his dad solve a mystery, then the first hanging-up-the-sign-for-summer mystery, and then, inevitably the kids' favorite, the introduction of Sally Kimball, the girl who punched out Bugs!

And I still get a little nervous, when I read about how the Tigers' clubhouse was an unused toolshed behind Mr. Sweeney's Auto Body Shop.
posted by mittens at 10:34 AM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


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posted by lord_wolf at 10:35 AM on July 16, 2012


COD, I remember it differently. He was lying about NOT driving the car, because when he sat the baby down, it cooed and laughed instead of being burned by the hot hood.
posted by infinitewindow at 10:35 AM on July 16, 2012


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posted by Elly Vortex at 10:36 AM on July 16, 2012


The title of this FPP made me simultaneously smile and look sad at the same time, resulting in a bilabial contortion of no doubt frightening aspect. I also may have sprained something. Well played.
posted by Celsius1414 at 10:36 AM on July 16, 2012


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posted by Flood at 10:37 AM on July 16, 2012


Why I remember that 35 years after I read it is a yet another mystery.

I did not know that she was lying about swimming in the river collecting golf balls because she was filing her nails, and no one ever does that after being in the water. Because really?

Still, I agree with everyone who says that Encyclopedia Brown inspired a lifelong love of mystery, learning and active reading.

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posted by Rock Steady at 10:37 AM on July 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


infinitewindow: "COD, I remember it differently. He was lying about NOT driving the car, because when he sat the baby down, it cooed and laughed instead of being burned by the hot hood."

Yes, for some reason that specifically triggered a memory for me, too.
posted by WCityMike at 10:38 AM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


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posted by koucha at 10:38 AM on July 16, 2012


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posted by humanfont at 10:40 AM on July 16, 2012


I remember the car one also. As well as one about a spelling contest, where he knew who broke the trophy because she was a bookkeeper and missed the question asking for a word with three repeating letters.

Loved those books.
posted by I am the Walrus at 10:41 AM on July 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


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posted by Axle at 10:43 AM on July 16, 2012


On the back wall of the Tigers' clubhouse hung a large banner, made from an old bedsheet. The banner typically had the name "TIGERS" painted in large letters. Recently, someone had crossed out the "TIGERS" and had written "FAREWELL" instead.
posted by Smart Dalek at 10:43 AM on July 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


I remember the car one also. I loved those books, even though I was a bigger fan of the Boxcar Children, who also never seemed to age.

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posted by Karmeliet at 10:44 AM on July 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


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Oh man, I read and re-read every one of those Encyclopedia Brown books at our tiny neighborhood library. I can still remember the smell of the books and the feel of the window mount AC unit on a hot summer day.
posted by mbd1mbd1 at 10:44 AM on July 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


Spent a lot of time reading those books.

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posted by Sailormom at 10:46 AM on July 16, 2012


I remember the awe that these stories inspired. I loved them.
posted by OmieWise at 10:47 AM on July 16, 2012


Ha, "bookkeeper" is a favorite piece of trivia of mine because of that story.

The one I always remember was when he knew someone was faking getting in a fight because he took his glasses off and put them in his breast pocket and they would have gotten broken in a real fight.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 10:48 AM on July 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


When informed of Sobol's death, Robert "Bugs" Meany responded, "Oh, I'm sorry to hear that. He was nice old guy."

Meany, now 57 and living in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, has mixed feeling about being immortalized in the Encyclopedia Brown series of books. "It was a tough time in my life. My parents were getting divorced, and my father was ..... it wasn't a good time for me. And I'm sorry to say that I took some of that pain and put it on some of the other kids in town. There's a lot of regrets."

When asked if he has ever gotten back in touch with Brown, Meany says, "Yeah, you'd think so, what with Facebook and all that Internet stuff these days. But no, I haven't. I mean, I don't know what I'd even say. Maybe that's one of those things you always think you might do, but never do."

After a stint in the Army, Meany started working as a general contractor, and now runs a successful business employing 15 contractors. He lives in downtown Cedar Rapids, with his wife, Sally Meany, née Kimball, and their two children. Meany is active in several local youth sports leagues.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:49 AM on July 16, 2012 [46 favorites]


The one I sort of remember was about a balloon. Someone claimed he blew it up, then saw it floating later. I remember thinking, "HE DID IT!, THEY DON'T FLOAT WITHOUT HELIUM" and thinking maybe mom was right. I was smart and special.

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posted by DigDoug at 10:49 AM on July 16, 2012


That hat Bugs wore? and Jughead and Goober, too?

Did anybody ever wear one of those in real life?
posted by jonmc at 10:50 AM on July 16, 2012 [9 favorites]


As shallow as the stories and characters were in these, they somehow always managed to be very evocative of the scene.

And why is it I find out these old favorites of mine are still alive only after they died?
posted by DU at 10:50 AM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sally Meany, née Kimball

FIGHT
posted by DU at 10:53 AM on July 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


I think the books were better than they would have been if they had been better.

That is to say, if the mysteries were just hard to solve, and you turned to the solutions and discovered that you'd just been too stupid to solve them, that would just have been a downer.

Instead, half the time, you turned back there and thought, "Oh, come on! Really?! How am I supposed to know that?" and so not being able to figure one out didn't sting so much.
posted by gurple at 10:54 AM on July 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


Did anybody ever wear one of those in real life?

De'Voreau White did. . .

The Encyclopedia Brown books were formative for me as well.
posted by DrMew at 10:54 AM on July 16, 2012


That hat Bugs wore? .... Did anybody ever wear one of those in real life?

You, my friend, have not yet seen the definitive piece of Internet historical research. Enjoy.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:55 AM on July 16, 2012 [20 favorites]


I once tried to interest my six-year-old niece in Encyclopedia Brown books. She gave up, because the stories were "so sad." Too many innocent children victimized and falsely accused, I guess.

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posted by Knappster at 10:55 AM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


To me, the biggest mystery was always that Idaville had two synagogues.
posted by mosk at 10:56 AM on July 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


Damn. I just got my nine-year-old son into these, which I remember fondly.

;_;

(and posting a Wikipedia link to Encyclopedia Brown is so meta.)
posted by rodeoclown at 10:56 AM on July 16, 2012


That hat Bugs wore? and Jughead and Goober, too?

Did anybody ever wear one of those in real life?


Oh, yes.
posted by zamboni at 10:57 AM on July 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


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I loved his stories growing up as a kid!
posted by Critical_Beatdown at 10:57 AM on July 16, 2012


I was a fan since the first battle of Bull Run.
posted by sourwookie at 10:57 AM on July 16, 2012 [14 favorites]


The one that bugged me the most on the "Seriously? People KNOW these things?" front: Hiding the rare coin on a hot dog, because EVERYBODY knows that you never put mustard on top of sauerkraut.

And every time I look at a flag at night, or while it's raining, I think, "Don't they KNOW that improper illumination and/or rain protection is a sign of DISTRESS????"

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posted by Madamina at 10:57 AM on July 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


Sobol taught me that squirrels can't back down trees, and always travel head-first.

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posted by Faint of Butt at 10:58 AM on July 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


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posted by slmorri at 11:01 AM on July 16, 2012


I loved those books. I am glad their creator had a long life. I hope it was a happy one as well!
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:02 AM on July 16, 2012


I loved these stories but never bothered trying to figure the mysteries out on my own. The solution I'll remember is when somebody claimed to have a picture of an enormous, prize-winning fish they'd caught. The crucial clue was that, although the fished appeared to be fighting, drops of water were falling straight down from its tail and therefore the fish had been caught elsewhere, frozen, and put on the hook for the photo. (And I was like, "oh man, there's no way I would've arrived at that anyway...")

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posted by Monster_Zero at 11:03 AM on July 16, 2012


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posted by Cash4Lead at 11:04 AM on July 16, 2012


Squirrels don't back down trees!


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posted by hot_monster at 11:05 AM on July 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


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posted by synecdoche at 11:05 AM on July 16, 2012


Tonight, I'll put a quarter on the old gas can.

The day the Scholastic order came to school was always a highlight. Anybody remember the trick book series by Scott Corbett that reprinted in the 80s?
posted by dr_dank at 11:05 AM on July 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


There were a handful of books that were part of a series that I stumbled upon as a boy and devoured. Encyclopedia Brown was one; RIP Donald Sobol.

Another was Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators, which, for a long time, I couldn't quite get my head around. They were youthful detectives whose investigations always seemed to dovetail with the supernatural, and, for some reason, they had a relationship with the actual film director Alfred Hitchcock, who would give them advice when they were stumped. There were a lot of really pleasurable elements to this, particularly how it managed to create some classic pulp elements on a childlike level. The boys had a secret lair, which was actually an old RV that had gotten so covered in scrap at one of their parents' scrap yards that everybody had forgotten about it. They had free use of a limousine whenever they needed it, thanks to the smart one, Jupiter Jones, guessing the number of jelly beans in a jar at a fair.

The author of that was Robert Arthur, Jr., who was involved in the wonderful Mysterious Traveler radio show, worked on Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and was the ghost editor of all those excellent Alfred Hitchcock anthologies that came out in the 50s and 60s (he also wrote the punning, macabre intros that were credited to Hitchcock; for an entire generation of readers, Robert Artrhur is as responsible for who we think Alfred Hitchcock was as Alfred Hitchcock was.)

I also loved the Danny Dunn books, although by the time I found them they were artifacts from a few generations ago. They were about a boy, his female friend, and his goofy, poetry writing best friend. Danny had a mad scientist living in his house, and so every so often they would have to deal with antigravity devices or robots or time travel.

Danny Dunn was cocreated by Raymond Abrashkin, who wrote the comic strip Timmy with Howard Sparber, who shares my last name, and also wrote the screenplay for Little Fugitive, which nearly won an Academy Award and, weirdly, is one of the ur-texts for the French New Wave. Abrashkin died early on in the series, but all the books are cocredited to him, as he helped create them.

Danny Dunn was also created by Jay Williams, a former Borscht Belt comedian and had been a press agent for The Little Fugitive. but Williams also wrote crime fiction under the (possibly Lord of the Rings-influenced) pseudonym Michael Delving. The books were illustrated by Ezra Jack Keats, who famously used collage to create his children's books illustrations, and was responsible for the utterly lovely The Snowy Day, which was also unique in that it featured a black child as its protagonist.

I love to find out about the authors of the juvenile fiction I used to read. They always have such surprising lives. I would be interested to hear more about Sobol's education at the NYC Ethical Culture Fieldston School, which was something unique when it started in that it was a prep school for poor children. It was sponsored by the Society for Ethical Culture, which is a sort of secular offshoot of Reform Judaism, taking Reform Judaism's strong focus on ethical behavior and attempting to apply it outside questions of religion. One of the principles of the movement is that morality is independent of theology; another is that the modern era proposes new moral questions that religion is ill-equipped to address. It's sort of interesting to think of Encyclopedia Brown as the perfect Fieldon School student, using his intellect to address and solve modern ethical dilemmas in their shorthand, when they become petty crimes.

I wish I had known Donald Sobol's manuscripts are at the University of Minnesota when I lived there -- when I return for a visit, I may check them out.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:09 AM on July 16, 2012 [29 favorites]


I don't remember loving those books, but I reread them enough times to remember every story mentioned here. There aren't many authors who face so much pleasure to so many people.
posted by Forktine at 11:10 AM on July 16, 2012


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posted by cashman at 11:11 AM on July 16, 2012


Very much enjoyed.


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posted by Atreides at 11:15 AM on July 16, 2012


Because you can't put a penknife in your LEFT pocket with your RIGHT hand while running, obviously!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:20 AM on July 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Ha, I see others have already mentioned the "bookkeeper" one, which has stuck with me for years.

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posted by Falconetti at 11:21 AM on July 16, 2012


I read these books so much as a kid that my older cousins who very much preferred ball sports and punching each other to reading started calling me Encyclopedia Brown.

Pretty sure they thought it was an insult, but I thought it was about the coolest nickname ever.
posted by billyfleetwood at 11:26 AM on July 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


The one that bugged me the most on the "Seriously? People KNOW these things?" front: Hiding the rare coin on a hot dog, because EVERYBODY knows that you never put mustard on top of sauerkraut.

No, that one's really easy. Of course you never put mustard on top of sauerkraut because that would imply the person was going to eat sauerkraut.
posted by DU at 11:30 AM on July 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh many, Bunny Ultramod may be my clone. Danny Dunn (doesn't hold up too well, btw), Three Investigators (still pretty good), Encyclopedia Brown. Also The Mad Scientists Club (also holds up well, if dated in some of the scientific frontierism.)
posted by DU at 11:32 AM on July 16, 2012


John Fitzgerald's Great Brain series was terrific as well.
posted by jonmc at 11:34 AM on July 16, 2012 [15 favorites]


Oh, The Great Brain and those fabulous Mercer Mayer illustrations!

In my headcanon, Harriet the Spy and Sally Kimball have been happily married for years and are raising llamas in Vermont.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:38 AM on July 16, 2012 [17 favorites]


Oh crap, of course Great Brain!
posted by DU at 11:39 AM on July 16, 2012


I loved these stories as a kid, but most of the solutions I remember are the bogus ones. (Sure, thunder only follows lightning, but what kind of thunderstorm has only one lighting strike?) I don't remember if I ever solved one without looking, but I suppose if they were the sort of thing I could solve I would have lost interest.
posted by ckape at 11:41 AM on July 16, 2012


John Fitzgerald's Great Brain series was terrific as well.

I'll see your Great Brain and raise you Bertrand R. Brinley's Mad Scientists Club.
posted by bondcliff at 11:43 AM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


How about T*A*C*K? With Will (code name: K).
posted by Madamina at 11:46 AM on July 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Bunny Ultramod, that comment was almost an FPP on its own.

Regarding the Three Investigators, a coworker once claimed that he had dobe a lot of legwork to prove that the town where they lived was just Pacific Palisades with a phony name. Today I'm sure the Jones family junkyard is just a bunch of condos.
posted by infinitewindow at 11:47 AM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


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posted by zbaco at 11:53 AM on July 16, 2012


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posted by vibrotronica at 11:53 AM on July 16, 2012


Did you ever notice that when a character puts a quarter on the gas can, they always do it in a way that is typical of their special skill? The bicycle guy rolls the quarter. The basketball guy throws it. I can't remember any other specifics, but everyone puts the quarter on the gas can in their own particular style.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 11:56 AM on July 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


My absolute favorite was always Alvin Fernald by Clifford B. Hicks (who, I later found out, had also been involved with Popular Mechanics magazine, one of my favorite magazines as a kid). I always preferred the illustration style from the original volume, though; the later ones used a very simplified, almost stick figure, style that I thought was too childish.

A few years ago I ran across Mr. Hicks's Web site and e-mailed him to tell him how much I'd enjoyed his books as a youngster. Glad I did, because he died two years ago. :-(

Danny Dunn and Encyclopedia Brown were staples, too. RIP Mr. Sobol.
posted by kindall at 11:59 AM on July 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


I loved those books... I remember being blown away by realizing that a door really does always swing toward it's hinges (can't remember why that was significant, though).
posted by Kriesa at 12:00 PM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


These books were a big deal to me (along with The Great Brain). I spent a lot of time trying to be a boy detective. The ridiculous and frustrating lack of mysteries convinced me there was something wrong with my life.
posted by bongo_x at 12:06 PM on July 16, 2012


Well, this thread is getting awesome. Count in in the Great Brain camp. And the EB story I remember best is the one where the crying girl had the tear coming out of the wrong corner of her eye.
posted by Bookhouse at 12:07 PM on July 16, 2012


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posted by LobsterMitten at 12:13 PM on July 16, 2012


Sobol also wrote a book called Disaster that introduced this young reader to events such as the Black Death, the 1942 Cocoanut Grove fire, the time a B-25 bomber collided with the Empire State Building and the volcanic eruption that wiped out Saint-Pierre. (I was all too aware of the 1977 Tenerife airport tragedy, having seen coverage on TV.)
posted by Gelatin at 12:14 PM on July 16, 2012


Aw geez. I liked Encyclopedia Brown quite a bit as a kid, but always felt a little stupid because I could never solve the mystery.

HOWEVER, when I got my hands on Secret Agents Four I read it about a billion times, oh my god.

The man will be missed, but he left behind a helluva legacy.

posted by Sokka shot first at 12:17 PM on July 16, 2012


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I loved these books and everything they represent - the triumphs of rationalism. However, I think they've germinated unrealistic expectations of our law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

In the real world, Bugs Meany becomes a cop, and Encyclopedia Brown suffers from major clinical depression as he struggles teaching a high school physics class to uninterested swag-chasers.
posted by Xoebe at 12:17 PM on July 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


My strongest Encyclopedia Brown memory is reading that story where the girl faked crying, and Brown knew because if you cry only a single tear it falls from the inside corner of the eye and not the outside corner. Even as a kid I remember thinking that was bull in so many different ways.

When I visited the TV Tropes page on "Conviction by Counterfactual Clue" years later and found out that apparently none of that is true I felt vindicated like you wouldn't believe.

Also, that one at the pizza place or wherever where the man and women were pretending to be the opposite genders and Sally knew because women are supposed to sit against the wall. What. What.
posted by KChasm at 12:17 PM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


EB, Danny Dunn, Alvin Fernald, The Three Investigators, and The Great Brain are part of my DNA. Truly great introductions to the joys of reading that shaped my life more than my entire educational career put together. Or at least the bits up to college.
posted by jsturgill at 12:20 PM on July 16, 2012


A little weird to be scanning this thread and realize that "Eyebrows McGee" is a MeFi user name, not one of Sobol's characters.
posted by benito.strauss at 12:24 PM on July 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


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posted by littlerobothead at 12:28 PM on July 16, 2012


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I can't remember any of the plots or solutions but I know the stories helped nurture my love of reading.
posted by incandissonance at 12:40 PM on July 16, 2012


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The only one that I specifically remember involved a mirror and the idea that the viewer can see the viewed but the light rays reflect similarly in the reverse direction. I'm now a high school physics teacher now and every year when I teach plane mirror reflections I think about that Encyclopedia Brown story.
posted by sciencejock at 12:52 PM on July 16, 2012


Anybody remember the trick book series by Scott Corbett that reprinted in the 80s?

Hell yes. I'd forgotten about Kerby Maxwell, Fenton, and the nominal bully/jock sidekick "Bumps" Burton.

Thinking about Encyclopedia Brown, my house had lots of books and my parents encouraged us to read about anything we were capable of, but for some reason Encyclopedia Brown, Danny Dunn, and the Corbett "Trick"books were never books we bought, they were library books.
posted by marxchivist at 12:55 PM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


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posted by stoneweaver at 1:08 PM on July 16, 2012


COD: you're referring to "The Case of the Happy Baby,"(MSWord Doc) I believe (though I linked the One-Minute Mysteries version.)
posted by Navelgazer at 1:15 PM on July 16, 2012


My favorite solution: Tyrone Taylor, the Idaville Casanova, is mystified when his crush responds to his latest love letter with a right cross to the jaw. The letter (which he dictated over the phone to said crush's little sister) reads as follows:

How I long for a girl who understands what true romance is all about. You are sweet and faithful. Girls who are unlike you kiss the first boy who comes along, Adorabelle. I'd like to praise your beauty forever. I can't stop thinking you are the prettiest girl alive.

Thine, Tyrone


EB quickly discerns that since the little sister is in the third grade, and thus prone to inadvertently malicious errors of punctuation, the message that Adorabelle received read like this:

How I long for a girl who understands what true romance is. All about you are sweet and faithful girls who are unlike you. Kiss the first boy who comes along, Adorabelle. I'd like to praise your beauty forever. I can't. Stop thinking you are the prettiest girl alive.


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posted by Iridic at 1:23 PM on July 16, 2012 [11 favorites]


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posted by annsunny at 1:36 PM on July 16, 2012


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posted by Uncle Ira at 1:41 PM on July 16, 2012


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posted by drezdn at 1:43 PM on July 16, 2012


I always remember the one with the crook who claimed to have come back from a long drive but his kid was walking on the car.

And the terrible EB HBO series. Where EB was an insufferable little kid and he flirted with Sally. It felt so inappropriate.
posted by Brainy at 1:56 PM on July 16, 2012


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posted by brujita at 1:57 PM on July 16, 2012


I loved these books as a kid. I learned what lox is from Encyclopedia Brown. He solved the mystery because lox is salty and makes you thirsty and the person was drinking lots of water. There was also one I loved that involved a time capsule.

The other mystery series that I loved was Hawkeye Collins and Amy Adams. They printed all the solutions in backwards print so you had to hold it up to a mirror, ha. I remember those books as being a little darker than the EB ones for some reason.

Also LOVED the Kirby Maxwell books. They were the reason I wasnted a chemistry kid so bad when I was a kid. I still kind of want one.

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posted by triggerfinger at 2:00 PM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ah, man - I read the shit out of Ecyclopedia Brown! Also, as with so many others, Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators, The Mad Scientists Club, The Great Brain, Harriet the Spy, etc. So formative. It is how I first learned that a true super villain must be detail oriented and avoid simple mistakes. Thank you, Donald J. Sobol. Of course I didn't do anything, but had I done it, I couldn't have done it without you. So I guess I'm naming you as my accomplice, and basically setting your estate up for possible legal action under the federal anti-conspiracy statutes. Sorry.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:09 PM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I loved EB, but yeah his explanations were so WTH? I read those Top Ten Worst Solutions link, and I caught a couple, but the rest, neh. I did love reading them and trying to figure them out, it taught me to read critically and take in details.

I was also a huge Hardy Boys fan, and this summer I realized I had 20 of those blue hardback with their profiles on the binder (I remember that l was 7 in the old public library, all those binders lined up). I read them all, and enjoyed them again. But you couldn't really solve them, you just had to read to figure it out. That's why I liked EB better.

RIP.
posted by WilliamMD at 2:16 PM on July 16, 2012


Encyclopedia Brown Says Kaddish.
posted by zaelic at 2:45 PM on July 16, 2012


When asked if he has ever gotten back in touch with Brown, Meany says, "Yeah, you'd think so, what with Facebook and all that Internet stuff these days. But no, I haven't. I mean, I don't know what I'd even say. Maybe that's one of those things you always think you might do, but never do."

After a stint in the Army, Meany started working as a general contractor, and now runs a successful business employing 15 contractors. He lives in downtown Cedar Rapids, with his wife, Sally Meany, née Kimball, and their two children. Meany is active in several local youth sports leagues.


Bugs is lying here, Sally Meany would be all over Facebook and 'that internet stuff', because girls are more social than boys and she is noted to be extremely inquisitive and intelligent too not know what Mr Brown is doing, as well as too honest and outspoken to keep such a thing secret.

Also one of his kids' names is Leroy.
posted by Sparx at 2:53 PM on July 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


In other deductive leaps, Sparx cannot type simple grammatical sentences because his mother was a secret drinker.
posted by Sparx at 2:55 PM on July 16, 2012


Clearly IRFH couldn't have been doing his chores as he was supposed to, because his laptop is still warm. As this is a children's story, "his laptop is still warm" is not a euphemism.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:03 PM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, I've researched it a bit more and it turns out that the lox story and the time capsule story are one and the same - The Case of the Time Capsule. I also ran across this entertaining Encyclopedia Brown tumblr.
posted by triggerfinger at 3:22 PM on July 16, 2012


From the NYT obit:

The series inevitably attracted Hollywood, which tried for decades to adapt the books for the big screen, with Anthony Hopkins, Chevy Chase and Goldie Hawn among those interested in the project.

I hope this means Hopkins intended to play EB, with Chase as Bugs, Hawn as Sally, and maybe a cameo from Ricky Jay as the flimflam artist Wilford Wiggins.
posted by Iridic at 3:36 PM on July 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


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posted by keli at 3:37 PM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]




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posted by condesita at 4:43 PM on July 16, 2012


"Under the most famous dairy diary in town."
posted by The Confessor at 5:38 PM on July 16, 2012


Watching the Penguins at the North Pole? Everybody knows that the the Eastern Conference doesn't extend any further north than Montreal. Sure, you can get DISH Network at the North Pole, but they weren't airing any Penguins games at the time of Enyclopedia Brown's murder.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:41 PM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


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posted by saslett at 6:20 PM on July 16, 2012


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posted by newdaddy at 7:03 PM on July 16, 2012


Ah, man. That sucks.

Here's my Encyclopedia Brown related story. There's one mystery that involves him figuring out that someone is able to eat a lot of hot sauce by first numbing his mouth by chewing on ice cubes.

That sounded totally neat, right? I mean, not neat enough for me to do it, but totally neat enough for me to convince my friend Wanda to try it one afternoon while we were over at Lori's house.

As it turns out, while chewing ice chips may slightly numb your mouth enough to allow you to drink an entire bottle of tabasco sauce, it does nothing at all for your ability to digest an entire bottle of tabasco sauce without massive pain.

The poison control center, unfortunately, was not able to offer much assistance.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:03 PM on July 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


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I wonder how many Mefites were nicknamed/called Encyclopedia Brown as a kid? By their moms?
posted by porpoise at 7:11 PM on July 16, 2012


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Just introduced my son to them, too.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:18 PM on July 16, 2012


I wonder how many Mefites were nicknamed/called Encyclopedia Brown as a kid?

If only.
posted by benito.strauss at 7:28 PM on July 16, 2012


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posted by Mezentian at 7:44 PM on July 16, 2012


Oh man, I loved these books. My mom bought me the collections that had their own slipcase, and I read the hell out of them. I even bought one book which had mysteries and baking recipes in it.

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posted by FarOutFreak at 7:47 PM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I read these when I was a kid and completely forgot about them until today. The lox, the tears on the wrong side of the eye... it's weird what comes back.

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posted by mikurski at 7:54 PM on July 16, 2012


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posted by rangefinder 1.4 at 8:47 PM on July 16, 2012


Heh, just remembered the one about how the cider hadn't turned hard yet.

Yeah, I like Farley Mowat, too. Prairie dog bounties, oh yeah.
posted by porpoise at 10:22 PM on July 16, 2012


I loved those books so much as a kid that when I had a son of my own, one of my first presents from my parents was a hard bound copy of an Encyclopedia Brown book. I've read through it a bit (still remember all the solutions), but the most recent printings have weird little modernizations in them. Like when explaining Encyclopedia's nickname, it mentions how encyclopedias are books with information and heavily implies their superiority to computers. It's weird.
posted by sleeping bear at 10:51 PM on July 16, 2012


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I loved the Encyclopedia Brown books. I read them all as a kid.
posted by SisterHavana at 11:22 PM on July 16, 2012


Great stories, really loved them.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 12:15 AM on July 17, 2012


My dad got us these books from the States back in the 1970s (along with Flat Stanley), and we loved them. Now my niece loves them too (& it's easier to get hold of them).
posted by DanCall at 1:26 AM on July 17, 2012


I was a huge fan as a kid - EB, Danny Dunn, The three Investigators, and kindall just helped me find Alvin's Secret Code that I read as a kid and have been trying to track down ever since.

I picked up a Three Investigators book a couple of years ago at the library, only to find out that the latest editions have totally removed Alfred Hitchcock - I guess modern kids wouldn't have any idea who that was :(

Thanks for a great chunk of my childhood, Mr. Sobol

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posted by pupdog at 7:21 AM on July 17, 2012


I've been looking through my old books from childhood, and found some EBs. I wanted to figure out if there was more to the 'mustard must not be placed over sauerkraut' story. If Bugs was trying to keep the stolen coin clean, I suppose it's better to have to wipe sauerkraut off it than mustard, but then why didn't Bugs just put the coin between the hot dog and the bun?

I know I'm thinking about this way too much. I'm in my 40s for X sake. But it's bugging me.
posted by WilliamMD at 9:36 AM on July 17, 2012


This is kind of crushing. I was about as obsessed with EB about as much as anything else from my early childhood. But I was pretty lousy with solving the mysteries, and I think over time I was more interested in the characters and stories. A lot of it was pretty dated even in the 80s (25 cents?) but I loved the quaint charm. I can't imagine how well they hold up today though.

The weird thing was how wildly different the cover art was for the various printings, so there was never a consistent depiction of him or the others.

And despite that, I think I'd have to put Sally among my earliest crushes along with Princess Leia, and Tia from "Witch Mountain."

And as much as Sobol was sort of a hero of mine, I never knew what he looked like, until now anyway. I'd like to see him playing golf with Stephen Covey and Ernest Borgnine.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 10:26 AM on July 17, 2012


Sally among my earliest crushes along with Princess Leia, and Tia from "Witch Mountain."

Woah, I suddenly remembered that girl (Kim Richards) from just about every single Disney movie in the 1970s. I just looked her up and she's had quite a life. Who knew Paris Hilton was her niece? The Internet is a strange and fascinating place.
posted by bondcliff at 10:47 AM on July 17, 2012


I wonder how many Mefites were nicknamed/called Encyclopedia Brown as a kid?

I was, by my mom. Because I loved the books and also was am a huge nerd who was not a lot different from EB. She got me into the books early to show that the smart goofball can also be the hero and somewhat cool for his inquisitiveness. I loved those books.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 10:10 AM on July 18, 2012


Good reads. I also piled the McGurk mysteries in the stack with the EB books.
posted by JDC8 at 10:21 PM on July 18, 2012


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