Monday, July 16, 2012

25 Cents A Day, Plus Expenses

Donald J. Sobol, even more than the authors of my pre-algebra books, taught me one thing: The best stuff is always at the back of the book. And like the befuddled mathematician looking up those andwers to all the odd questions in the back of the book, looking in the back of Donald J. Sobol's Encyclopedia Brown books led me to realize that maybe I should try to sort things out in the front of the book first, just so everything makes sense in the end.

Sobol's Encyclopedia, plus the ineffable Mr. Brown, always willing to flip open that notebook and share the details of the city's most recent bizarre crime with his young son, were constant companions in the back of most of the classrooms I inhabited at Lincoln Elementary. I wrote many book reports based on his books and imagined that the schoolyard bullies were all members of The Tigers, Bugs Meany's petty little gang of unintelligent miscreants.

Imagining foiling Bugs and is fleshy compatriots time and again, with or without the help of spunky female sidekick Sally Kimball, filled many hours at Lincoln. I never was really amart enough to apply Encyclopedia's brains or Sally's spunkiness to real-life situations, as real life doesn't have the solutions in the back of the book. But I made many good college tries and then, in junior high school, moved on to other things, such as not giving a fig for what the bullies said. They moved on to less confident victims.

Sobol apparently died late last week. He's second only to E.W. Hildick for the most notable author in my childhood.

Sobol's ability to spin out original stories in such simplified language still astounds as I read the books now (and pass them on to my kids).

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