Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

In each of Donald Sobol’s gently humorous Encyclopedia Brown juvenile detective books, readers can find all the clues necessary to solve ten mysteries along with Leroy “Encyclopedia” Brown, a bookish ten-year-old detective who lives in a fictional seaside town, Idaville, with his father, the police chief, and his mother, a full-time homemaker. Encyclopedia’s solutions and problem-solving strategies are always printed like an answer key at the back of the book.

In the first chapter of each installment, Sobol reviews the central premise of the series. Although Idaville may seem like “the usual American town,” at its heart is a notable anomaly: For nearly one year, no Idaville child or adult has succeeded in breaking the law. This record has less to do with Chief Brown’s smart and able police department than with his smart and able son, who secretly solves the chief’s toughest cases over dinner in the kitchen of the Browns’ red brick house on Rover Avenue. Sobol suggests that Encyclopedia succeeds where others fail largely because he remembers everything that he reads, and he reads voluminously. In fact, a small portion of Encyclopedia’s cases support this view, turning as they do on his knowledge of science or history. In “The Case of the Civil War Sword,” in Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective (1963), Encyclopedia uncovers Bugs Meany’s plot to trick a younger child into trading his bicycle for what Bugs claims is a sword...

(The entire section is 596 words.)