In other news, I re-read Zanboomer today for the nth time. I had the book as a kid and read it over and over then. My copy either fell apart or was lost but I found a hardcover at a library sale and so I get it out periodically. For some reason, I only ever read Zanballer once and I'm not sure I ever read Zanbanger at all.
If you've never read it, Zanboomer is about Suzanne "Zan" Hagen, a high-school student who lives for sports. She's on the varsity baseball team. (A mixed squad -- they earned that right in a previous book.) But her arm is injured in a game and she can't play for the rest of the season. Her best friend, loner nerd Arthur Rinehart ("nothing's hopeless to a man of science"), becomes her coach and gets her to take up long-distance running.
What struck me today was the character of Rinehart: total science geek, thick glasses, spends all of his time in his basement with his experiments, his animals, his plants, and his Mung (an all-purpose recipe that gets used to oil baseball gloves, treat bruises, and harden into gumdrops). In fact, he's just like Elmer Drimsdale ("I am an ichthyologist. My world is the undersea world.")
Both are focused on science and knowledge and are acknowledged experts. Both kids and adults defer to their superior knowledge. They pursue their research because they can't live any other way. They are loners. They wear glasses.
So I started wondering if this is a common character type in juvenile media. Who else fits into this pattern? Hermione almost does -- but she doesn't do any research/invention of her own that we can see. (And we know that invention is possible -- look at Fred and George.) Inui certainly fills that slot on PoT, but he's a sportsman and his research is focused on tennis, so he loses points for being too cool.
Anyone else? I suppose there's always a "bookish" one in the bunch, when you get enough kids together, like Mac in Eight Cousins. But Rinehart and Elmer know more than the adults in the books, they know better, and they're doing their own research to find out more.
Jeez, I feel like I wasted my youth now because I didn't invent anything.