Encyclopedia Brown

Created by Donald J. Sobol

Probably the most famous child detective of them all, ranking right up there in popularity with teenage sleuths The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, ENCYCLOPEDIA BROWN first appeared in Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective in 1963 by Donald J. Sobol, and the series hasn’t been out of print since.

That first book, bashed out in just two weeks, according to legend, set the pattern for the twenty-odd that have followed. Each chapter — there are usually ten — is a short mystery with the solution conveniently included in the back of the book. The clues are pretty fair and quite numerous, and well-distributed through each story.

As well, Sobol turns out to be a deft storyteller. Each story is a little gem, rich in atmosphere, with plots that are often quite inventive, full of jokes and metaphors. Although perhaps a little dated now, the details of kids’ life and activities still ring true. They’ve proven extremely popular with young readers, and have been translated into over a dozen languages around the world.

Perennially ten years old, Encyclopedia lives in Idaville, Florida, often referred to as a typical American town. He’s aided in his investigations by his best friend, Sally Kimball, who plays Watson to his Holmes. Or is it Hawk to his Spenser? Because, occasionally, she supplies a little “muscle.” Meanwhile, the perennial villian in many of the stories is Bugs Meany.

And the best part? Encyclopedia is an actual private eye! Okay, he’s not licensed or anything, but he does charge a fee (25 cents!) for his services and he does take on clients.

Although born in New York City, Sobol and his wife, Rose, also an author, settled in Florida and had three grown children. Sobol started writing the syndicated series Two-Minute Mysteries in 1959, starring criminologist Dr. Haledjian. It proved very popular and ran for more than ten years, and through the years wrote several other acclaimed children’s books, including Secret Agents Four, Angie’s First Case and The Amazing Power of Ashur Fine.


  • “Smarter than the Hardy Boys and wittier than Nancy Drew…”
    — Craig Pittman,Tampa Bay Times



    (1989, HBO)
    Director: Savage Steve Holland
    Producer: Howard Deutch
    Starring Scott Bremner as ENCYCLOPEDIA BROWN
    Also starring Sally Bridge


Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith. Thanks to Derek Gilbert for his help with this one.

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