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Children's Literature @ NYPL

Encyclopedia Brown: A 50th Anniversary


It is hard to believe, but Encyclopedia Brown has been solving cases for 50 years. I vividly remember checking out the Encyclopedia Brown books from my elementary school library. Although I never seemed to be able to solve the cases correctly, I loved the idea of having the answers waiting for me at the back of each book. My favorite story was "The Case of the Skunk Ape" and had I known what a cello was, I would have picked up on the clues.

The Children's Center at 42nd Street is thrilled to be honoring our favorite boy detective by hosting Encyclopedia Brown Day on Saturday, October 26th from 2-4 p.m. The festivities, for children ages 5 to 11, will include a scavenger hunt around the historic Schwarzman Building as well as other activities. Please check our programming schedule for more information.

Did you know that the idea for the Encyclopedia Brown stories was born at the New York Public Library? In the 1950s, Donald Sobol regularly conducted research in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. On one occasion, Donald submitted a request to have four books retrieved from the Library's hidden stacks. The items arrived through the book elevator in the Rose Main Reading Room. Upon closer examination, Donald discovered that one book was not a title he had requested. The book that had been delivered in error was filled with puzzles. Happily, for millions of children, it was one of the best mistakes ever made! Each puzzle was printed on a single page and the answer could be found by simply turning the page. After trying a number of the puzzles with unsuccessful results, Donald realized that these puzzles would make a great newspaper column. Donald began writing a syndicated column called "Two Minute Mysteries" which appeared in newspapers across the United States as well as abroad. The mystery column would eventually spark the idea for a book about a young detective named Leroy Brown. The first book, entitled Encyclopedia Brown: Boy Detective, hit library shelves in 1963. The rest, as they say, is history.  If you would like to find out more about Donald Sobol, please check out the Biography in Context database on the Library's website.


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