Encyclopedia Brown Series

Book review by
Carrie Kingsley, Common Sense Media
Encyclopedia Brown Series Book Poster Image
Boy solves crimes that stump adults in fun, funny mysteries.

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Kids say

age 8+
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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Kids have to think and pay attention to solve the mysteries. The clues in each story promote critical reading and thinking, and they cover a range of topics in a concise way. Deductive reasoning can solve some of the mysteries, but other clues incorporate some knowledge of science, history, or math.

Positive Messages

Brains and heart are celebrated in these books. The message of responsible behavior is cut and dry: The good guys do good work, and the bad guys -- caught every time -- are generally unhappy people. Crime doesn't pay, liars are busted, good, hardworking people win in the end.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Encyclopedia's parents, teachers, and community are supportive. They ask for his help and value his input. The criminals in each mystery are portrayed as angry liars, and the rest of the world as lovely and wonderful. But there's a serious lack of racial diversity in white Idaville.

Violence & Scariness

Occasionally a bully will threaten another kid, and there are brief moments of tension in each mystery, but all so mild that nothing will likely register with readers at this age.

Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Donald J. Sobol's Encyclopedia Brown series is just as fun to read in its reprinted editions as it was in 1963. Each book is a collection of brief mysteries (8-10 pages long) in which 10-year-old Encyclopedia Brown takes a case, listens, watches, and solves it by being more observant than anyone else. While the town of Idaville lacks racial diversity and gender roles are fairly traditional, the series promotes so many positive ideas: Do the right thing, work hard, be kind. Older nemesis Bugs Meany never wins, and it's fun to see Encyclopedia take him down with brains, wit, and confidence. Readers have the chance to solve the case along with Encyclopedia; each chapters ends with the mystery solved, but readers turn to the end of the book to read how he did it. Great for early or reluctant readers of chapter books.

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Kid, 9 years old December 31, 2017

An Entertaining Book Complete With Mysteries To Solve

Although I literally NEVER read a book that is this few pages, I had heard good things from several friends and thought this would be a good one to try. The man... Continue reading

What's the story?

In the ENCYCLOPEDIA BROWN series, 10-year-old Leroy Brown is nicknamed "Encyclopedia" because his memory and observation skills have made him the most sought-after detective in Idaville. This small-town boy takes cases for 25 cents, finding anything from a lost earring to an escaped bank robber, figuring out who the town litterbug is, or determining if a kid really drank the bitter water and won the contest against nemesis Bugs Meany's gang.

Is it any good?

The writing in these mysteries is fast-paced, fun, and full of sly jokes. Each self-contained chapter in the Encyclopedia Brown books is only 8-10 pages long, so early or reluctant readers of chapter books will have an easy time focusing, and more advanced readers can whiz through case after case. The characters aren't at all complex and the names in the series are clues themselves (any kid named "Bugs Meany" or "Lefty Dobbs" is bound to be trouble), and there's humor in that simplicity. There isn't a lot of diversity in Idaville, but the series does try to expand gender roles a bit -- a girl playing football or having a better left hook than any boy. These are fun mysteries set in relatable situations, and the solutions will even keep adults guessing.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Encyclopedia Brown keeps an open mind when he takes a case. How can you keep from jumping to conclusions about a person or incident?

  • Encyclopedia's key to solving cases is listening and observing carefully. How would this be helpful to you, even if you don't have a case to solve?

  • What other books have mysteries set in everyday situations? What are some of your favorite mystery books?

Book details

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