Encyclopedia Brown Author Donald Sobal Dies at 87

July 16, 2012 10:33 pm

He made generations of kids want to read while crossing over to pop culture status in the process. Donald Sobol, beloved author of the Encyclopedia Brown detective series, has died at the age of 87.

Thanks to Sobol’s longevity, Leroy “Encyclopedia” Brown has been solving cases for the citizens of Idaville for nearly fifty years, all the while maintaining his original 1960s rate of a mere 25 cents plus expenses – an incredible steal in 2012. “To change every book would be an enormous amount of work so we just left it and we hoped that that’s an advantage,” Sobol told Just My Show in 2007. He doesn’t seem to be greedy. He’ll take 25 cents because he feels he wants to do the work for youngsters and not take them for a ride…It’s worked out.”

While the series may be commended for engaging thought and incorporating positive moral messages, Sobol did not set out to preach to children. “I have no expectations of solving the world’s problems in children’s books, he told JMS. “I want the children to be entertained.” Perhaps the greatest message kids can take from the series though, is the persistence of its author. The first Encyclopedia Brown book, inspired by Sobol’s Associated Press column “Two Minute Mysteries,” was rejected by publishers a whopping 24 times before beginning its iconic run.

The series produced other memorable characters including Encyclopedia’s sidekick Sally, an unusually strong female for its time, and bad boy Bugs Meany. But it was the young detective himself, who inspired big thinking from both kids and his creator.  “None of my characters are based on real life except maybe Encyclopedia Brown,” said Sobol.  “He is the boy I would have loved to be when I was ten and I knew I could not be. So maybe this is compensation. I write about him.”

Sobol’s most recent effort, Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Soccer Scheme is scheduled to be released this fall. In the meantime, for readers of all ages who are embarrassed by their inability to quickly solve the classic kids cases, don’t sweat it.  “I couldn’t solve the mysteries if I didn’t write them,” revealed Sobol. “You know my worst secret.”



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