Does anyone else remember Encyclopedia Brown?
I used to read all these books, and solved a fair number of the cases within, which although targeted at kids usually required a decent level of scientific knowledge, such as understanding the color blindness of dogs or the effects of ice on taste buds. They also often required a deep understanding of civics and manners, to an almost ludicrous degree. In one case, Encyclopedia Brown nailed which person in a restaurant was a criminal because he noted which person did not let a lady sit on the proper side of the booth. I’m serious. In another he identified who was a woman in disguise because she put a piece of paper in the wrong breast pocket on his/her shirt. In another, the key to the mystery was etiquette regarding the American flag.
Flash forward to the children’s shows of today, such as Dora the Explorer in which she and her sidekick Boots are constantly on the lookout for things that are ALWAYS IN THE UPPER RIGHT HAND CORNER. I know for a fact that Stevie Wonder could tell Dora where the Peach Tree is.
Suffice it to say, and this may just be my pessimism talking, that today’s kids would stand NO CHANCE against an Encyclopedia Brown mystery, and the city of Idaville would be left without heroes who could protect them from all the rampant vandalism and snake-oil salesmen.
But, while embracing my pessimism, I must also acknowledge that there is still great entertainment potential in shows or books that make kids feel clever. And having had no luck pitching a kids’ show about crime solving kids (who can, say, figure out where the vandals who toilet papered a house must have been standing because of the direction of the streamer trails) in a world where Super Grover uses his “super powers of deduction” to figure out that snow must be cold because the bird sitting on it is shivering, I have re-tooled my premise for a detective child for the modern era:
He’s an Indian-American ten-year-old named Kamir Sherlock who solves “mysteries” and “crimes” for only figuratively clueless children and then gives them a handout with Things to know and remember on it for the next time this happens. This handout is the “Know Sheet” that has given Kamir his nickname, and so when he shows up in the pilot to help the neighbor kids figure out why they can’t see the moon they all call out his name as he arrives:
“Know Sheet Sherlock!”
Know Sheet Sherlock calmly lays out a little background to the kids about the moon. He talks about how it reflects the sun’s light, and about the phases of the moon. Science! He also explains how during a New Moon, no light reaches the moon, so you cannot see it at all. But just before the end of the show, Know Sheet Sherlock turns to the kids watching at home and asks them if THEY know the REAL reason they can’t see the moon. (“Did you see any clues?”) Finally, he spills the beans that the reason none of the kids can see the moon right now is because it is cloudy out, it is day time, and they are all inside the house. At which point all the kids exclaim with their epiphany:
“Wow, Know Sheet Sherlock!”
Know Sheet Sherlock then gives the kids a helpful Know Sheet with tips about seeing the moon including: 1.) Is it night time? 2.) Are you outside? 3.) Do you see stars in the sky? After the show, kids can log on to the Know Sheet Sherlock web site and printout the Know Sheet for their very own use, especially if they failed to solve the mystery themselves!
Next episode: Know Sheet Sherlock explains left and right handedness before explaining why only the hand holding the burning coal is in pain.
PBS, here I come.