Donald J. Sobol, Encyclopedia Brown author, RIP

Popular children's author Donald J. Sobol has passed away at the age of 87. His 'Encyclopedia Brown' series was incredibly important to many, many children (including this one.) (Washington Post)


  1. I remember staying up late reading Encyclopedia Brown books, once falling asleep fully dressed reading one. That’s not a criticism of the book–it was just really, really, really late.

    What always comes to mind are some of Sobol’s witty phrases that peppered the stories. I could go find the exact quotes, but I prefer to remember as much as I can of the ones that have stuck with me without looking them up first. Among them: people said Encyclopedia Brown had read so many books that when he did a cartwheel it sounded like a bookcase falling over, and there was also a notorious con-man (whose name I can’t recall) who Sobol described as having more get-rich-quick ideas than a group of Texans around a spot of oil. And then there was Bugs Meaney’s gang, The Tigers, although Sobol said they should have called themselves The Tea Bags, because they were always getting into hot water.

    That last one still cracks me up.

    Hail and farewell, Mr. Sobol.

  2. Sorry for being a pedant – his last name is Sobol, not Sobel.

    I really enjoyed his books.  I found it inspiring that they have never been out of print since their initial publication, which is pretty remarkable.

  3. They should put an intentional inaccuracy in his obituary for readers to spot.  “At age 23, Donald Sobol studied polar bears in the Antarctic…”

  4. As a fan of the series (I read all the ones that were available when I was in sixth grade), I can’t help pointing to this 2003 obit for Mr. Brown himself.

    Also a fan of Austin Ripley and the earlier Ellery Queen stories where they’d tell you when you have all the clues and challenge you to solve the case.

  5. Wow, I really liked these when I was a kid.  I still remember being so upset over not being able to figure out one story where the clue was that the gang shares everything evenly, but there was an odd number of pizza slices, which somehow proved the pizza was stolen.

    I think it says something about how much I had invested in Encyclopedia Brown that I still remember this more than 20 years later.

  6. I still have all my books from when I was a kid. They’re downstairs, in the basement, just ‘a narrow flight away’.

  7. The Encyclopedia Brown books really stood the test of time! Rereading my childhood books recently, books that I’d enjoyed equally as a child, I found the only ones I could in good conscience repurchase to share with the nieces and nephews were Mr. Sobol’s books and L. Frank Baum’s Oz books. (And Incognito Mosquito, Private Insective. Oh, and The Westing Game.)
    I’m so glad Mr. Sobol lived this long, though longer would have been better of course. The details from his obits have provided many delightful discoveries about a great person, and I’ve enjoyed finding out how many of my contemporaries still love his work.

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