Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: 10 fun, short mysteries to solve
Cons: Characters are thin
The Bottom Line:
Ten more short cases
Match wits with boy detective
Proves to still be fun
Ten More Cases with the World’s Smartest Ten-Year-Old
I have often confessed that, even with all the mysteries I read, I usually can’t figure things out much before the detective does if at all. That’s nothing new. As a kid, I had a hard time matching wits with Encyclopedia Brown, and as an adult, it’s just more embarrassing that he’s smarter than I am.
If you’ve missed this middle grade series, Leroy “Encyclopedia” Brown is a boy who remembers everything he’s ever read and is super observant. So when he is presented with a puzzle, he is able to point out what is out of place. Quite often that trips up the criminal or would be criminal. Each book consists of ten short stories with the solutions at the end of the book. The idea is that the reader can solve the case along with Encyclopedia and then see if they figured things out correctly.
The books always open with a case that Encyclopedia’s father, the police chief in their town of Idaville, needs help with. In Encyclopedia Brown Carries On, he’s trying to figure out how to move a giant mousetrap that a would be criminal left outside town hall when no one would buy it from him. The rest of the stories find Encyclopedia and his partner Sally helping his friends and neighbors. They encounter Bugs Meany a few times when Bugs tries to rig a drawing and again when he tries to set Sally and Encyclopedia up with the police. They also help a friend keep his business giving for golf balls to himself and save the Left-Handers Club from sabotage.
As a kid, I was usually happy if I solved two cases per book without needing the solution at the end. I’m glad I say I was somewhere around six or seven (I didn’t actually count) in this book. And no, that’s not because I remembered the stories before I picked up the book; it’s been so long since I last read this collection they were all essentially new stories to me.
Each story is only about five pages, not including the solution in the back. Throw in an illustration, and it is obvious they really do fit the short story classification. There isn’t time for major twists or surprises, but that’s okay because this is a different kind of mystery focused on trying to have the reader think through the solution themselves. Plus, they’re fun.
Because the stories are so short, it also means that there isn’t much in the way of character development. Many of the kids in the stories are only around for that one story, so we hardly see them. Even the series regulars like Encyclopedia and Sally aren’t super well developed. But I didn’t care as a kid, and it didn’t really bother me now.
The books are a little dated, complete with the nickname Encyclopedia. Do today’s kids even know what that is? Overall, the stories and solutions hold up pretty well. They certainly entertained me all over again.
I had almost forgotten just how much fun Encyclopedia Brown could be until I picked up Encyclopedia Brown Carries On. While some elements might be dated, I think today’s kids would still enjoy time with him.
This review is part of this week's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday.