Sunday, August 24, 2014

Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective, by Donald J. Sobol

These books tell the story of Leroy “Encyclopedia” Brown, a young boy with a powerful brain and a photographic memory.  This kid genius puts his skills to use as a private detective serving the good people in his town of Idaville.  His father works as the local police chief, so Leroy routinely becomes involved with local crimes as well as disputes between his school friends.  No case is too big, too small, or too hard for this kid detective!

There are almost thirty books in this series, but each one stands alone so you don’t have to worry about reading them in order.  Also, the books themselves are collections of short stories which all feature clues and open endings.  The best part about these books is how they let you read each story as you try to figure out the puzzle right alongside Encyclopedia Brown!  Of course, if you’re like me and you always get stumped by mysteries, you can always find the solution for each story at the end of the book!

For a small town, it seems like Idaville always has a lot going on.  I really appreciated how the setting was completely fictional, so you were free to imagine that mysteries like these could actually be happening in your own town.  Have you ever thought that the town where you live might make a good setting for a story?  Are there any people you know who have special talents like Encyclopedia Brown’s great brain?

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Where the Red Fern Grows, by Wilson Rawls

Billy Coleman lives in rural Arkansas.  As the only boy in his family, he enjoys hunting in the great outdoors and desperately wants to buy a pair of dogs.  When his father tells him that they just can’t afford two redbone coonhounds, Billy works for two years to save up the money himself.  Billy names them Old Dan and Little Ann, and they quickly become the best coonhounds in the state.  Since his family still struggles to make ends meet, Billy turns to hunting raccoons in order to sell their furs and provide a better life for his little sisters.

I really enjoyed how the author really lets the reader peek into Billy’s mind, instead of just stereotyping him as a “hillbilly”.  Billy doesn’t attend school and gets mocked for his appearance whenever he goes into town, but he’s actually just as smart as any other kid his age.  More so, he’s a genius when it comes to outdoor skills, like hunting raccoons and surviving in the wild.

This is a classic book for boys, but I wonder how girls might feel about it since it’s really a story about a boy and his dogs—nothing more!  Yes, Billy has three sisters, but they’re really only supporting characters in the book.  In fact, none of the girls are even given names!  I think that Mr. Rawls must have left them nameless on purpose, if only to emphasize just how strongly Billy felt about his dogs.  To Billy, Old Dan and Little Ann were so much more than just his pets.