Donald J. Sobol, creator of the classic children’s book series Encyclopedia Brown, has died aged 87.
News of Sobol’s death on July 11 was confirmed to the Associated Press by son John, who added that his father passed away through natural causes.
The first Encyclopedia Brown book was published in 1963, meaning Donald Sobol’s work has been loved by two generations of young readers. The 28-book series starred kid detective Leroy (Encyclopedia) Brown and his sidekick Sally Kimball, a tough female protagonist who John Sobol praised as a ‘groundbreaking’ character. Together, Leroy and Sally would solve ten small mysteries in each book.
Don Weisberg, president of Penguin Young Readers Group, praised Sobol’s contribution to children’s and teens’ literature:
“Thanks to Donald, generations of children have learned to read and solve mysteries alongside Encyclopedia Brown, one of the most iconic characters in children’s literature.”
In a mark of the enduring appeal of Encyclopedia Brown, the books have never been out-of-print. The series, which won an Edgar Award in 1976, has also been reincarnated as a comic strip and an HBO television show. A new adventure, entitled Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Soccer Scheme, will be released by Penguin next year, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Sobol’s creation.
Sobol, who was born in New York City, started life as a reporter with the New York Sun. In the late-50s, he began writing mystery stories as part of his syndicated column. These short sketches, entitled “Two-Minute Mysteries”, featured a character who solved slightly more serious crimes than those found in a typical Encyclopedia Brown title, but nevertheless laid the foundations for Donald Sobol’s later career.
On Twitter, fans of Sobol’s work reflected on how his words had influenced them:
RIP Donald J. Sobol. Encyclopedia Brown let me briefly feel like being a nerd was cool.
— Brian (@SortaBadass) July 16, 2012
— Curtrise Garner (@FirstImpressN) July 17, 2012
Would Encyclopedia Brown have to be called Wikipedia Brown today? Or Google Brown? (Sigh.) RIP Donald J. Sobol. #nerd
— Nicole Neroulias (@BeliefBeat) July 16, 2012
Sobol is survived by his wife, sister, three children and four grandchildren. RIP, Donald.