Last week, I read this story in The New York Times about the death of Donald J. Sobol, the writer of the Encyclopedia Brown series, I started thinking about the mysteries I loved as a child. I don't read many mysteries as an adult. But I loved them as a child.
When I think about that reading, I think about Trixie Belden, who was my all-time favorite detective. I used to divide the world into those who loved Trixie Belden best and those who loved Nancy Drew best. I read Nancy Drew mysteries too, but she irritated me. She was well-behaved. She wore the proper clothes and jewelry. She had a well-behaved boyfriend. Even at the tender young age of 9, I knew my life as a teenager would not turn out that way.
No, I preferred Trixie Belden. She was spunky. She was rough and tumble. Her hair did not behave. But Jim, the boy next door, loved her anyway.
I read other detective series too: the Hardy Boys and that group of two sets of twins that I remember so little about that I can't even Google them. I read Encyclopedia Brown too. But my heart belonged to Trixie Belden.
I did like that I could try to solve the mysteries that Encyclopedia Brown solves--or I could flip to the back of the book. Several weeks ago, a group of us (all educators of some sort) got into a discussion of critical thinking and whether or not it could be taught and if it could, how best to do so. As I read about the creator of Encyclopedia Brown, I wondered how many of my problem solving skills could be traced back to this kind of childhood reading.
As I've been reading about the publishing history of the series, I've been struck by the number of times that Sobol submitted the manuscript before it was published; he says it was about 2 dozen. Since then, I don't think the Encyclopedia Brown books have ever been out of print. It's another reminder of how important it is to believe in our own work and to keep submitting.
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