Allison's Book Bag

The Case of the Soccer Scheme by Donald J. Sobol

Posted on: May 8, 2015

Encyclopedia Brown. Who in the world of children’s literature hasn’t heard that name? Who isn’t familiar with the boy detective from Idaville and his close friend Sally Kimball? As with the best young detectives, Encyclopedia Brown is famous in his neighborhood for solving mysteries that stump even the chief of police. What about the series, written by Donald J. Sobol and first launched in 1963, has such high appeal? Let’s take a look at the most current title, Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Soccer Scheme to find out.

A huge selling point for me with my students is the series format of ten stories per book, with each story being less than ten pages. For anyone is daunted by reading, even the hundred pages often required of a chapter book with the simplest vocabulary feels like having one’s teeth scraped. In contrast, being encouraged to read just the few short pages of a mystery instead like simply opening one’s mouth and saying “AH” for a dental exam.

In addition to the brevity, I also appreciate how Sobol creates an atmosphere that depicts an average student’s life and activities. For example, in Case of the Soccer Scheme, the settings are as simple and common as a neighbor’s house or yard, a local drugstore, a sports park, the town library, and a home business. Moreover, the crimes often amount to that of false accusations between classmates and attempted fraud in contests. The worse crimes involve a stolen goods and a burnt library book. In contrast, many other popular mystery series including the long-established Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys include kidnapping and murder.

Finally, while all of the above might prove selling points for reluctant readers, Encyclopedia Brown should also appeal to any young person with a penchant for mysteries. Clues are given in the course of each story, with solutions being provided in the back of the book. The mysteries aren’t necessarily easy either, but require readers to hone their observation skills. In one of the Soccer Scheme cases, a teenage girl claims to have seen the newspaper boy bolt shut their front door for an April Fool’s trick. However, doing so would have required her to sit on a couch full of cat hairs despite her wearing a black dress for a performance later in the day. Immediately, I knew this was a clue. In another case, two teens try to convince neighborhood kids to buy stocks in a gold mine the two teens supposedly found. I have to admit that I paid more attention to the lengthy details provided about his thirst and his exhaustion, than to the one line which described the teen as being pale, and so missed the critical clue to the mystery.

During my childhood, I read various Encyclopedia Brown books. Year after year, when I offer my students the choice of a book to read for the last quarter of school, someone inevitably picks Encyclopedia Brown. The series has and should continue to stand the test of time for reluctant and avid young reader alike.

My rating? Read it: Borrow from your library or a friend. It’s worth your time.

How would you rate this book?


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I am focusing this year on other commitments. Once a month, I’ll post reviews of Advanced Reader Copies. Titles will include: Freddy Frogcaster and the Flash Flood by Janice Dean, One Two by Igor Eliseev, Incredible Magic of Being by Kathyrn Erskine, Dragon Grammar Book by Diane Robinson, and Wide as the Wind by Edward Stanton.



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