Solving a Teacher’s Mystery Stumper

Cindy: I felt like Nate the Great or Encyclopedia Brown earlier this school year, when an eighth-grade science teacher surprised me by asking for help with this reader’s advisory mystery stumper: “So, we’re studying Newton’s laws of motion, and I remember an Encyclopedia Brown mystery case story about someone riding in the back of the truck and when the driver hits the brakes, the object flies out the back of the truck. Anyway it’s a short and simple story where the case is solved because it violates a couple of Newton’s laws.”

Easy, I thought. I grew up on Encyclopedia Brown books, and I knew that the answers to the cases are in the back of each book, so I started my investigation with the two older titles in my GRAB collection (Get Reading a Book Now beginner reader collection in my middle school).  I struck out. But like Encyclopedia, I would not be stumped. I posted a quick TARGET post to LM_NET thinking someone out there would be able to help me out. No luck.

I decided a good detective needed to be methodical. I found a list on Wikipedia of the complete Encyclopedia Brown series and started an organized search.

I started searching e-books via Overdrive and skimmed the answer sections on each title I could find there. No luck.

No problem.

I visited three local public libraries and skimmed through their titles, crossing them off my master list as I went. No luck.

I stopped at Barnes and Noble, where I only found a handful of the titles available. I did restrain myself from opening the shrink-wrap on a four-book set that had one title I hadn’t seen yet—a good detective obeys the law!

Finally, one of the remaining titles I borrowed through inter-library loan solved my case! I found my man. . . er, I mean, the answer to the request! The murder was in the library by Colonel Mustard with a candlestick. Oops, I mean. . . drum roll please. . . “The Case of Bugs Meany, Thinker” from Encyclopedia Brown Carries On (#14, 1980).

Mystery solved. I’m still waiting for my reward—although, really, the thrill of solving a book stumper and helping a teacher is reward enough.





About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

4 Comments on "Solving a Teacher’s Mystery Stumper"

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  1. Keir Graff says:

    Nice sleuthing, Cindy!

  2. Ticee Graham says:

    I remmeber this story!!!
    Great sleuthing, but I am curious how this violates Newton’s laws…

    • Ticee Graham says:

      Ahhh, I see it now, I misunderstood, I believed the solution in the book violated the laws. Now I realize it’s the “story” (the lie told), that carried the violation.

      • Cindy Dobrez & Lynn Rutan says:

        Yep! Leroy often caught the criminals due to his encyclopedic knowledge…knowing the suspect wasn’t telling the truth because he was “wrong” about details…like in this case. -cd

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