08 December 2012


Locus Focus: Take Eighty-Three!

Welcome to Dining Rooms Day!

Why travel the world for great settings when some really good ones are already to be found at home? I'll be featuring the "basic" rooms of a "regular" house for the next few Locus Focus month-long challenges. We're starting with dining rooms because they're closest to the Top Secret December Theme. (I'm the only one still having fun with this joke, aye?)

You can find out more about Locus Focus on the Settings page. If you write your own post, I'll link it at the end of this one and at the start of the next one. =)

Laura Ingalls Wilder's novels aren't the only ones I've been reading this month. Last week, I also started going through the shorts in the latest book of popular children's series that I managed to find a copy of. It's probably the only series I don't mind reading out of order.

The Brown Family's Dining Room
The Encyclopedia Brown Mysteries
by Donald J. Sobol

At the dinner table Tuesday night, Chief Brown stared at his cream of mushroom soup. Encyclopedia and his mother knew what that meant. He had a mystery he could not solve.

"Tim Nolan died yesterday," he announced matter-of-factly.

"That name is familiar," Mrs. Brown said. "Wasn't he mixed up a jewelry robbery a few years ago?"

"Five years ago," Chief Brown replied . . .

Encyclopedia sat quietly. He knew his mother and father were discussing the case for his benefit.

-- from "The Case of the Fifth Word"

When I started reading the Encyclopedia Brown stories, I thought of the Boy Detective as the ultimate Meddling Kid. That precocious child who solves the mystery that none of the professional, experienced adults can crack. His own father, the town's Chief of Police, seems to agree, judging by how many cases he brings home for his son to solve over dinner. It's a conceit that's really fun for young readers, who have no idea that there's much more going on at the table than a kid trouncing a grown up.

Chief Brown is certainly not the only father in the world (or even in literature) who has ever discussed the details of his job with his son over the cream of mushroom soup, in the hope that the boy will follow in his crime-fighting footsteps. And the future is looking good: the lad has already opened his own detective agency in the family's garage. (Note to self: do garages one of these months.) It's no mystery who Idaville's future Chief of Police will be--and it should be no surprise if, when he finally takes over the post, he turns out to be amazing. Not because of his natural talents, but because someone deliberately steered those talents in the right direction.

In short, when it comes to police work, young Leroy isn't meddling in business that's not his own. He is being apprenticed--for what we might call the family business--by a father who can spot potential when he sees it, even if the latter cannot always spot the snag in a crime himself.

Question of the Week: What was the best thing you ever learned in the dining room as a child?

Image Source: Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Disgusting Sneakers

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