Did you know the book series had a TV show? It did. And it was awesome.
Encyclopedia Brown belongs to a special category of children's books: books--the kind starring characters like Harry Potter and Nancy Drew--that treat curiosity as one of the best assets a kid can have. Books that make it seem not just acceptable, but actually kind of wonderful, to be a nerd. Donald J. Sobol's "boy detective"--enjoyer of puzzles, observer of oddities, lover of facts--derives much of his charm from his earnest appreciation of the world's details. He finds his fun in the mundane: in the revealing little banalities that make life interesting and weird and, if you're lucky, mysterious.
Sobol, whose death at 87 was announced this week, leaves a rich legacy. It includes not only the Encyclopedia Brown book series, and not only the comic strip of the same name, but also multiple generations of people--girls and boys--who were inspired by Encyclopedia to go off and solve their own mysteries. In an age that increasingly needs and values its engineers and its makers and its problem-solvers, that is something to be celebrated.
But Sobol's legacy includes something else, too: a TV show. An incredibly cheesy, ridiculous, wondrous TV show. For a brief, shining moment in 1989--a stretch of time that had more than its share of brief, shining moments--Encyclopedia, Sally Kimball, Bugs Meany, and the gang got to together to act out their adventures in the full, fluorescent glory of the late 1980s.