Title: Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Mysterious HandprintsEncyclopedia Brown #16
Author: Donald J. Sobol
Illustrator: Gail Owens
Pages: 91
Reading Level: 9-12
Star Rating: ★★

The Sherlock Holmes of America returns.

The Stories.

The Case of the Blond Wig. Someone has smashed the rudder of the Defiance, one of the sailboats in the Commodore’s Cup finals. The only witness claims to have seen a blonde man walking towards the Defiance, but didn’t actually see the crime being committed. Is the blond man the crook?

The Case of the Battle Cries. Gary Hale needs Encyclopedia’s help. See, he was just bustling along down to the post office with his entry to the “Fighting Words of Famous Americans” contest, when Bugs Meany came along and stole it from him. Can Encyclopedia recover Gary’s property?

The Case of the Stolen Tools. Bugs Meany, smarting from his last encounter with Encyclopedia, has decided to frame Encyclopedia and Sally with stealing tools from the Hemming’s storage shed. Can Encyclopedia use logic to prove their innocence to Officer Clancy?

The Case of the Angry Girl. Tyrone Taylor simply cannot understand why his love letter to Adorabelle Walsh was met with a punch – or rather several of them. Can Encyclopedia discover what went wrong?

The Case of the Albatross. Encyclopedia and Sally’s friend, Conway Tintushel, hoped to win the Idaville Trout Fishing Tournament for Children. He didn’t expect to be outcdone by Jim Loring who not only presented the biggest fish of the lot, but also gave photographic evidence of his catch – a picture which shows Encyclopedia, Sally, and Conway as witnesses! Can Encyclopedia prove that the picture is a phony?

The Case of the Prize Pig. Lucy Fibbs’ race-pig, Hambone usually gets off to a fast start in his races. That’s why, when Hambone is the last to leave his stall at the Farm Progress Show race, Encyclopedia’s sure there’s been foul play.

The Case of the Hard-Luck Boy. Arty Yakamoto is a winner – and a loser. He won the local vocabulary quiz, but his prize, a wristwatch was broken before he received it. Can Encyclopedia prove through whose villainy it was broken?

The Case of the Giant Watermelon. Omar Boxlittler is in distress. His prize watermelon, 164 lb. Milly-Dilly, has been stolen! Omar can provide Encyclopedia with three suspects and one clue, but Encyclopedia will have to do the rest!

The Case of the Fighter Kite. Merwin Elkberry is a superb kite-flier – and he enjoys showing off his skills! But when he, Encyclopedia, and Sally witness someone flying a kite recklessly close to the path used by private planes, they are all outraged. That kite could jam up an engine! But who was flying it?

The Case of the Mysterious Handprints. Clarence Heiden, a rich bachelor, has reported a set of valuable bookends as missing, and he would like Chief Brown to work on the case. Chief brings along Encyclopedia, and together they work at which of Mr. Heiden’s houseguests must be the thief.


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

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 get into shouting matches.

Also, the solutions to these mysteries were more obtuse than the typical Encyclopedia Brown book. I felt there were more leaps of logic involved than normal.

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

Conclusion. While perhaps not the most constructive way for children to be investing their time, Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Mysterious Handprints is not harmful and will sharpen younger readers’ skills of analysis and observation of details.

Note: This is a review of Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Mysterious Handprints, not the entire Encyclopedia Brown Series.

Review © 2014 Laura Verret

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