Donald Sobol

Donald Sobol
Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective 

The sign hanging on the garage door reads

Welcome to the original solve-it-yourself mysteries featuring a ten-year-old detective in sneakers. No one gets away with breaking the law in Idaville, because Encyclopedia Brown cracks most cases over the dinner table. (His mother is disappointed if he hasn’t come up with an answer by the time she serves dessert.) When fieldwork is called for, he’s ably seconded by Sally Kimball, the toughest—and the prettiest—kid in the fifth grade.

Each of the 28 volumes in the series presents 10 mysteries that you’re challenged to figure out—thefts, scams (usually perpetrated by Tigers leader Bugs Meany), attacks, fixed contests, and the like. Sobol uses ingenious clues, crafty storytelling, and gentle humor to hold your interest. Some solutions require specific knowledge, such as where penguins live (Encyclopedia Brown Gets His Man); others rely on simple logic. If you’re stumped, you can always turn to the back of the book to find the answers.

Since the first of these collections was published in 1963, Encyclopedia Brown has been a perennial favorite with kids—and a strong incentive to get them reading. Even adults will learn a few things without intending to, and have a whale of a good time along the way. Here’s the perfect opportunity to find out if you really are smarter than a fifth grader.

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