Many of you wrote last week (or the week before) and suggested Encyclopedia Brown for a Quick 10, saying that many of us probably have developed our Flossy ways thanks to the boy detective. Somehow, despite a love of trivia, those books never found their way into my hands as a kid. So, wondering what so many of you were raving about, I bought one last weekend.
Where have I been?! How much fun is Encyclopedia Brown? I can just imagine that legions of pre-teens were inspired to set up a detective agency in their parents' garage after checking out Leroy's adventures. On second thought, maybe that's why my parents never introduced the series to me"¦ at any rate, thanks for helping me solve the "What's the Big Deal About This Book?" mystery. As a reward, here are a few facts about the little boy with the big brain.
1. Encyclopedia Brown isn't based on anyone—at least, not really. "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," Sobol once said.
2. Looking at Sobol's bibliography, it's actually pretty clear that his interests are just as varied as those of the boy he writes about. He has written more than 65 books, but many of them aren't children's books or even fiction. He has written nonfiction titles that include The First Book of Stocks and Bonds and Lock, Stock and Barrel, a collection of short biographies of men in the Revolutionary War. He also wrote The Wright Brothers of Kitty Hawk, a fictional biography of Orville and Wilbur.
3. Encyclopedia Brown wasn't Sobol's first go at writing mysteries. Just prior to his success in the world of children's books, Sobol wrote "Two Minute Mystery," a syndicated column. He later created the similarly-titled Two Minute Mysteries, a series aimed at kids a bit older than the E.B. audience.
4. More than 50 million Encyclopedias have been sold, with 7.5 million currently in print.
5. Idaville, Florida, doesn't actually exist, although you can find an Idaville in Indiana, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Tennessee. So why Idaville? Sobol has never said for sure, but I suspect it has something to do with the fact that his mother was called Ida. I think Encyclopedia Brown would agree.
6. Usually, Sobol stumps readers. But on at least one occasion, readers stumped him. In 1990, some students wrote to Sobol about a story that involving a dishonest kid sneaking a hard-boiled egg into a carton for an egg-spinning contest. But the way the story was written made it seem that inexplicably, the kid would have hidden his hard-boiled egg in the carton before it was ever purchased from the grocery store. Sobol picked up the story and reread it for the first time since it had been published 30 years prior and realized the students were right. He corrected it and newer editions make more sense.
7. Topless Robot ranked the top 10 most impossible-to-solve EB mysteries. Check them out and see if you agree. Coming in at #1? The Case of the Kidnapped Pigs from Encyclopedia Brown Saves the Day.
8. E.B. made it to HBO in 1989, but sadly, he didn't last long. It was a live-action series with 30-minute episodes, but our detective couldn't solve the Case of the Low Ratings and the show was canceled after just 10 shows.
9. Did you guys know Encyclopedia Brown was found dead behind a dumpster in Idaville several years ago? He was badly beaten and nearly decapitated. Bugs Meany, of course, was suspected.
10. We might see an Encyclopedia Brown movie one of these days, but probably not while Donald Sobol is still alive. Producer Howard Deutsch bought the movie rights to the series in 1979, but Sobol contested it. It was settled out of court and apparently the results are confidential, but Sobol has said that although Deutsch still technically owns the movie rights, the rights will revert back to the author after a certain period of time. Deutsch has publicly disagreed with this statement, but maybe that's why he's trying to unload the movie now. A few years ago, Deutsch and Ridley Scott were shopping the rights and merchandising options around Hollywood. Nothing has been determined yet, but we might see Leroy in action on the big screen yet.
And a bonus: Cracked.com has a pretty funny Encyclopedia Brown flow chart to refer to in case you're ever stumped on a mystery of your own.