Title: The Case of the Exploding Plumbing11-Encyclopedia-Brown-The-Case-of-the-Exploding-Plumbing
Author: Donald J. Sobol
Pages: 73
Reading Level: 9-12
Star Rating: ★★

Further adventures in the life of Encyclopedia Brown…

The Story.

1)      The Case of the Runaway Elephant in which two men claim ownership to an elephant and Encyclopedia must decide which is the true owner.

2)      The Case of the Worn-Out Sayings in which Encyclopedia must recover a stolen newspaper for his friend Max Corrigan.

3)      The Case of the Skunk Ape in which Bugs Meany accuses Encyclopedia of stealing a cello case.

4)      The Case of the Counterfeit Bill in which someone in Idaville is printing counterfeit money. But who?

5)      The Case of the Window Dressers in which Hector’s department Store is robbed of one hundred thousand dollars worth of jewelry, and it is Sally who solves the case!

6)      The Case of the Silver Dollar in which Chauncy van Throckmorton’s silver dollar has disappeared and there is only one suspect. One suspect other than Chauncy himself, that is!

7)      The Case of the Litterbugs in which Marlo Fosgood has received a letter threatening his life. Who sent it?

8)      The Case of the Frightened Witness in which the only way Luther Ginocchio can tell Encyclopedia the location of the money Bruno Devlin stole is by code. But can Encyclopedia decipher the code?

9)      The Case of the Exploding Plumbing in which Winslow Brant’s antique collection has been destroyed and his plumbing exploded. Is there any connection between the two incidents?

10)   The Case of the Salami Sandwich in which Ziggy Ketchum has lost his lunch at the shoe store and will be fired from his job unless he recovers it quickly.

Ah, yes, and now has come our favorite part. The style of Donald J. Sobol.

“Encyclopedia’s scalp twitched. “This is my most hair-raising experience since I pulled off my turtleneck sweater,” he joked weakly. [pg. 18]


“Chauncy von Throckmorton was the best-dressed boy in Idaville. He had clothes for every occasion. He put on a riding outfit just to pitch horseshoes. [pg. 34]


“Luther wouldn’t steal,” said Sally. “But Bruno… I wonder. He’d throw a drowning man both ends of a rope.” [pg. 48]

Then there’s the incomparable Bugs Meany…

“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!” [pg. 13]

How dumb are these kids? The next one’s a little funny.

“Ziggy Ketchum was sixteen and the most absent-minded boy in Idaville.

He often hired Encyclopedia to help him find things. Only last month Ziggy lost his wristwatch. Encyclopedia found it on his other wrist. [pg. 58]


I’ve said before that there are three recurring themes in the Encyclopedia Brown series. True to form, they made their appearance here in The Case of the Exploding Plumbing.

1)      Encyclopedia’s father, Chief Brown brings home all of his most difficult cases home for Encyclopedia to solve because he’s so much smarter than all adults.

2)      Sally Kimball is described not only as the prettiest girl in fifth grade, but also as the best fighter. She punches out boys whenever she feels they deserve it.

3)      Children call each other names and engage in shouting matches.

In addition to these, three other problems pop up in The Case of the Exploding Plumbing.

In one scene a boy insults a girl and she proceeds to tackle him, beat him up, and undress him. She refuses to let him have his clothes back, so he comes to Encyclopedia for help.

Another case involves a crime supposedly committed by ‘The Skunk Ape’, Idaville’s Abominable Snowman. Encyclopedia proves that the crime was really committed by a person who was dressed up in this costume.

In one story, a young boy exclaims “The devil has won!”, his proof being that birds have begun to act like humans – money crazy.

‘Gosh’ and ‘golly’ are each used once.

Conclusion. Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Exploding Plumbing is what I would call ‘filler fiction’ – not especially wonderful, but not especially damaging. It will not promote serious thinking, but will provide safe enough literature for voracious readers. Not the best, but not noxious.

Note: This is a review of Encyclopedia Brown: The Case of the Exploding Plumbing, not the entire Encyclopedia Brown Series.

Review © 2013 Laura Verret

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