A Part Of My Childhood, Gone

I just read of the death of Donald Sobol, the author of the Encyclopedia Brown series that I devoured in my childhood — an experience that sometimes convinced me that I was really, truly, smart, and other times confirmed that I was thick as the proverbial brick.

But Enyclopedia Brown, The Happy Hollisters, and every Nancy Drew book I could find formed the triumverate of my pre-pubescent literarary canon, which, lamentably, fizzled once I delved into things not appropriate for my age group, like Eldridge Cleaver’s “Soul On Ice” and Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye.” These, in a disheartening departure from serious social discourse, I abandoned when I discovered David Cassidy and Tiger Beat magazine. Hormones and a desire to fit in took over from my radical beginnings.  But I always had a fondness for Encyclopedia Brown, whose female friends were as smart as his guy friends, and whose confidence that any mystery presented him could be solved with just a little thoughtful detective work made me feel, in some ways, very much empowered.  After all, if a fictional kid could make things right by solving crimes, then surely I, a real, flesh-and-blood girl, could do even better.

I’m not sure I did, but I learned a lot from Encyclopedia Brown, and I’m grateful for the hours I spent poring over the mysteries that entered his life.  If I know nothing else, I know that oblong-shaped paint droplets mean that the suspect was running, not walking, while carrying the paint can.  You can’t imagine the dilemmas that’s gotten me through.

Thanks, Mr. Sobol.

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