Originally published in 1942, Gertrude Chandler Warner writes a wonderfully suspenseful story of four orphaned children. Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny Alden are supposed to live with their grandfather, Mr. Alden, after their parents die, but they have never met Mr. Alden and are afraid of him. So, they decide to run away and live by themselves. On a rainy night in the woods, Jessie finds an abandoned boxcar, and the children soon decide to keep house in it.

As a child, I was inspired and a little frightened at the Alden’s exploits. The thought of living in the woods and taking care of my siblings without my mother or father to help me was just about the scariest thing I could think of. Yet, the Alden children never seemed worried about finding food or making money. Every day, Henry would do odd jobs for Dr. Moore and bring home food whenever he could. Every day, Jessie and Violet would work to keep the boxcar clean and prepare meals. The children’s resourcefulness is amazing, and even when Violet becomes very ill, you know that everything will be alright.

Modern children who read this book will likely be astonished at all of the things the Aldens are capable of doing. Henry gladly works to organize a hopelessly disorganized garage. Jessie can cook a whole meal over a fire. Violet can sew by hand. Benny never complains about any of the chores his older siblings give him. Considering that the story is set in the early 1940s during World War II this is not really as unlikely as it seems. Readers will learn that children during this time were expected to similar tasks every day or whenever necessary. The Boxcar Children is a perfect book to integrate into a unit concerning American history or World War II.

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The Boxcar Children

21 June 2012

As a child, The Boxcar Children series was a staple in my reading list. I spent a whole summer reading through as many of these books as I could find. I was thrilled that I could read chapter books, and these books instilled in me a permanent love of mystery.

The book we’ll be reading is the first in the series, The Boxcar Children. In this story, we are introduced to Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny Alden who have just lost their parents. They are supposed to go live with their grandfather, Mr. James Alden, but they have been told that he is a cruel man. Afraid, they run away and build their own home in a boxcar. Warner tells the story of their lives with no parents and their joy in being together. Her words are simple, but her story is engaging. This is the perfect series for beginning readers.

Read The Boxcar Children, then tell me what you thought of the Alden children living on their own. If you read these books when you were young, tell me about the influence they had on your desire to read.

The review for The Boxcar Children will be posted on Monday, 25 June 2012.