The world of children’s literature lost two well-loved children’s authors last week: Donald J. Sobol and Else Holmelund Minarik.
Which of us did not read at least one “Encyclopedia Brown” mystery as a child? For many of us, it was our first introduction to the mystery genre. The series debuted in 1963 with Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective; 49 years later, author Donald Sobol was still working on the series when he died on July 11. There are currently 28 books about Encyclopedia Brown, all following the same format: Encyclopedia uses his encyclopedic knowledge and Holmesian powers of observation and deduction to solve ten small mysteries. All the clues are available for the young reader, who is challenged to solve the mystery on his or her own. The solutions are presented at the back of the book.
Sobol was born in 1924 in New York, and served with the Army Corps of Engineers during the war. He earned his bachelors degree from Oberlin College before beginning a career as a newsman. Eventually he left the news business to write full time. In 1976, Sobol received a special Edgar Award for his work on the Encyclopedia Brown series. A final book will be published posthumously.
Else Holmelund Minarik, author of the endearing Little Bear books, died July 12 at her home in North Carolina. Little Bear and its sequels use simple and comforting prose to tell the story of childhood through the eyes of a bear cub. Minarik’s stories about Little Bear were charmingly and perfectly illustrated by the then-young Maurice Sendak (who coincidentally died in May.) The books were brought to life in the 1990s and early 2000s as an animated series on cable television. Both books and television series soon became favorites in my household as in many others.
Ms. Minarik was born in Denmark in 1920. Her family emigrated to the U.S. when she was quite young; she grew up primarily in New York and attended Queens College. She worked as a reporter and later taught school. She chose to write her stories about a bear rather than a child because, in her words, “all children of all colors would be reading the stories…All children love animals.”
Grady, Denise, “Donald J. Sobol, Creator of Encylopedia Brown, Dies at 87”. The New York Times, 7/16/2012
Pittman, Craig, “Encyclopedia Brown Author Donald Sobol Dies in Florida at 87”. The Tampa Bay Times, 7/17/2012
Fox, Margalit, “Else Holmelund Minarik, Author of Little Bear Books, Dies at 91”. The New York Times, 7/13/2012