A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this series begins with the book titled The Boxcar Children, which introduces the Alden children, age 14 to 6, who are orphaned and running away from their grandfather, whom they've never met but believe to be cruel. The book ends happily when the children are reunited with their grandfather, who turns out to be a kind, wealthy gentleman. Each subsequent novel in the series revolves around a different mystery the four Alden children solve. These books are written for beginning readers with basic sentence structures and vocabulary. Plots are simple but engaging. Solid values shine through each novel: hard work, respect, and having fun. Dated gender roles might bother some parents.
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What's the story?
In the first book of the series, THE BOXCAR CHILDREN, Henry (age 14), Jessie (12), Violet (10), and Benny (6) are orphaned and running away from a grandfather they have never met but think is cruel. In order to escape being found, they decide to live on their own in a boxcar abandoned in the woods. Through ingenuity and hard work they make it their home -- building a swimming hole and a fireplace for cooking. When Violet gets seriously ill, Henry seeks help from a friendly doctor who had hired Henry to do household chores. Dr. Moore knows the grandfather is looking for the kids and reunites them with their grandfather, who is kind as well as rich. The first novel ends happily and sets the stage for a series of novels that all revolve around a mystery the four Alden children solve. The kids travel around during vacations and solve mysteries as well as make new friends. Elements from the first book continue throughout.
Is it any good?
This is a great series for beginning readers. Though not deep, these plot-driven mysteries hold the reader's interest. Gertrude Chandler Warner, an elementary school teacher, wrote the first 19 of the books, using the 500 most common words and kept plots simple. (Later books have the byline "created by Gertrude Chandler Warner.") Although not complex, the characters are appealing and realistic.
The first book is the star of the series, but all the books provide hours of good reading. There are more than 130 books in the series, including a prequel by Patricia MacLachlan, published in 2012.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the differences in life for the kids in The Boxcar Children series compared with today. How did kids entertain themselves before video games and TV?
How does the first book, The Boxcar Children, which was written in 1924, compare with books in the series that were written more recently? Were kids different back then?
How is the gender of the characters portrayed in these books? Are boys and girls locked into roles or free to do as they like?
- Author: Gertrude Chandler Warner
- Genre: Mystery
- Topics: Adventures, Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Albert Whitman & Co.
- Publication date: January 24, 1942
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 6 - 8
- Number of pages: 154
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: February 26, 2020
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