Home > Articles, Books > On Encyclopedia Brown: the Bugs Meany Introductions

On Encyclopedia Brown: the Bugs Meany Introductions

Every now and then I like to provide a valuable resource for those of us who consult the internet for things, when I can think of one, and I’ve thought of one.

You may or may not be familiar with the Encyclopedia Brown series of books by Donald J. Sobol. Sobol wrote them for kids, starting in 1963 and ending only with his untimely death at the age of 87 in 2012. Each book was a collection of short stories in which our hero, a boy named Leroy “Encyclopedia” Brown, is presented with a mystery, which he solves, but doesn’t reveal how he solves it; you have to either figure that out yourself or check the answers in the back of the book for that.

Encyclopedia’s arch-enemy is Bugs Meany, the leader of a gang of older boys called the Tigers. Bugs and the Tigers are tough and unscrupulous but not that smart. In each volume, Sobol introduces us to Bugs Meany and the Tigers, and as the series went on, the introductions became the best part of the book and were often worth the price of admission all by themselves.

In the first book, Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective, Encyclopedia didn’t know Bugs and the Tigers yet, and his client had to explain to him who they were: “‘Oh, no,’ replied Clarence. ‘Tigers–that’s the name of a boys’ club near the canal. The boys are plenty tough, all of them. But their leader, Bugs Meany, is the toughest one.’”

The second book, Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Secret Pitch, had a real introduction, but Sobol hadn’t hit his stride with them yet, and wouldn’t for another few volumes: “Bugs Meany was the leader of the Tigers, a gang of older boys who caused more trouble than itching powder in Friday’s wash.”

3. Encyclopedia Brown Finds the Clues: “Bugs Meany was the leader of the Tigers, a gang of older boys who caused more trouble than woodpeckers around a maypole.”

4. Encyclopedia Brown Gets His Man: “Bugs Meany was the leader of the Tigers, a gang of tough older boys. When it came to upsetting the peace of the neighborhood, they were worse than noisy plumbing.”

Sobol finds his winning formula with 5. Encyclopedia Brown Solves Them All: “Bugs Meany was the leader of a gang of wild older boys. They called themselves the Tigers. They should have called themselves the Berries. They were always getting into one jam after another.” The best introductions are of this form, and Sobol would use it for most of the rest of the series, with a few exceptions.

6. Encyclopedia Brown Keeps the Peace: “They should have called themselves the Tea Bags. They were always getting into hot water.”

7. Encyclopedia Brown Saves the Day: “They should have called themselves the weathermen. They never stole anything till the coast was clear.”

8. Encyclopedia Brown Tracks Them Down: “‘Give Bugs a free hand, and he’ll stick it right into your pocket,’ said Encyclopedia. Bugs Meany was the leader of a gang of tough older boys. Encyclopedia had often been hired to stop their stealing and cheating.”

9. Encyclopedia Brown Shows the Way: “They should have called themselves the Umbrella Carts. They were always pulling something shady.”

10. Encyclopedia Brown Takes the Case: “Bugs Meany was the leader of the Tigers, a gang of tough older boys. Encyclopedia was often called upon to stop their dishonest doings. Only last week he had put a halt to the Tigers’ ‘Giant Summer Pet Sale’. Bugs had dipped seven sparrows in peroxide and tried to sell them as canaries.”

11. Encyclopedia Brown Lends a Hand: “Bugs was the leader of a gang of tough older boys called the Tigers. Encyclopedia was kept busy stopping their crooked doings. Only last week Bugs had filled a glass bowl with water and hung a sign on it: ‘Invisible Fish. Two Dollars a Pair.’ Little kids watched for air bubbles and shouted, ‘There’s one!’”

12. Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Dead Eagles: “They should have called themselves the Mountaineers. They were never on the level.”

13. Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Midnight Visitor: “They should have called themselves the Taffee Twisters. They were always pulling something crooked.”

14. Encyclopedia Brown Carries On: “They should have called themselves the Elbow Bands. They were always up to something crooked.”

15. Encyclopedia Brown Sets the Pace: “They should have called themselves the Razors. They were always getting into scrapes.”

15½. Encyclopedia Brown Takes the Cake: “They should have called themselves the Pretzel Makers. They always tried to make dough the crooked way.”

16. Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Mysterious Handprints: “They should have called themselves the Pocket Watches. They always watched for the police while their hands went around in some little kid’s pocket.”

17. Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Treasure Hunt: “They should have called themselves the Spoons. They were always stirring up trouble.”

18. Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Disgusting Sneakers: “They should have called themselves the Steel Clocks. They were always giving some little kid a hard time.”

19. Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Two Spies: “In Encyclopedia’s opinion they should have called themselves the Shoelaces. When they weren’t tied up cheating little kids, they were at loose ends.”

20. Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of Pablo’s Nose: “They should have called themselves the Pots and Pans. They were always cooking up trouble.”

21. Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Sleeping Dog: “They should have called themselves the Gift Factory. They were always giving some little kid the works.”

A repeat! What a rip-off. 22. Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Slippery Salamander: “They should have called themselves the Tea Bags. They were always getting into hot water.”

23. Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Jumping Frogs: “They should have called themselves the Spurs. They always arrived on the heels of trouble.”

24. Encyclopedia Brown Cracks the Case: “They should have called themselves the Screwdrivers. They were always twisting the truth.”

25. Encyclopedia Brown, Super Sleuth: “They should have called themselves the Pirates. They ‘sailed the seas’ of Idaville, always ready to steal the treasure of the small kids. Encyclopedia would have liked to make all the Tigers walk the plank.”

26. Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Secret UFOs: “They should have been called the Shepherds. They were always trying to pull the wool over someone’s eyes.”

27. Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Carnival Crime: “They were so underhanded that sometimes they had trouble raising their arms over their heads.”

A partial repeat. 28. Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Soccer Scheme: “They should have called themselves the Lamp Chains. They were always pulling something shady.”

My top five are

5. 13.
4. 21.
3. 14.
2. 9.
1. 18.

Oh, and while I’m at it I might as well mention that Sobol also wrote a teen spy novel called Secret Agents Four which is really good and I recommend it to all.

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  1. February 25, 2014 at 7:00 pm

    I love these books! 41 years old and I will still grab a handful of them at the library to read over a weekend. I love Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators as well :-) Great post; it reminds me that I am due for a trip to the library!

  2. February 25, 2014 at 7:23 pm

    I’m a big Three Investigators fan too. (Especially the Robert Arthur ones.) For Encyclopedia Brown, I find that the deeper you get in the series, the more you read the solutions and go, “That? That’s what we were supposed to figure out? That’s pretty weak, Donald J. Sobol.” Not all the time. But sometimes.

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