The second book that I’ve read in the Encyclopedia Brown Series, Encyclopedia Brown Takes the Cake! was different from the first in that it had a unique… flavor. (Oh, I’m so punny.)
The stories still follow good old Encyclopedia and his devoted sidekick, Sally, but this time the stories all center around food: missing cakes and stolen piñatas, vanishing geese and sabotaged restaurants. There are seven stories altogether.
1) The Case of the Missing Garlic Bread in which Encyclopedia must decide whether Bugs Meany and his gang stole Josh Whipplewhite’s birthday cake and garlic bread.
2) The Case of the Fourth of July Artist in which Encyclopedia must prove that the Liberty Bell picture that Wilford Wiggins’ is trying to raffle is a fraud.
3) The Case of the Oven Mitt in which two electric mixers are stolen from Mr. Feinfinger’s kitchenware shop.
4) The Case of the Overstuffed Piñata in which Encyclopedia must prove that Bugs Meany has stolen Tim Gomez’s piñata.
5) The Case of the Missing Watchgoose in which Candida Strong’s goose, Christopher Columbus Day, has been kidnapped.
6) The Case of the Secret Recipe in which Beauford Twitty’s new potato (signed by the New York Yankee pitchers) is stolen.
7) The Case of the Chinese Restaurant in which Oliver Wilkie is accused of stealing $ 108.00 from the Service Club’s treasury.
Every other chapter finds Encyclopedia cooking something: fried chicken and potato salad for the Fourth of July, tostados and polvorones for a Mexican fiesta, and a Chinese meal replete with egg drop soup, Chinese riblets and sweet and sour meatballs. Recipes are included for every food that he cooks as well as instructions for kitchen safety and basic cooking tips. Although not elaborate, these recipes include more than just out-of-the-box ingredients.
Donald Sobol has a penchant for odd similes. For example…
Encyclopedia crinkled his nose. Wilford Wiggins was a high school dropout and as hardworking as a flat tire. [pg. 14]
“Tim Gomez was standing halfway down the block and looking madder than a flea on a stone dog.” [pg. 39]
Candida was so absent minded that she could lose her sense of direction in an elevator. [pg. 53]
There are three recurring themes in the Encyclopedia Brown series. True to form, they made their appearance here in The Case of the Two Spies.
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.
‘Darn’, ‘golly’, and ‘gee’ are each used once.
Conclusion. Encyclopedia Brown Takes the Cake! 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. It may also cause them to have more interest in cooking.
Note: This is a review of Encyclopedia Brown Takes the Cake!, not the entire Encyclopedia Brown Series.
Review © 2013 Laura Verret