Title: The Boxcar Children
Author: Gertrude Chandler Warner
Age: Early Elementary
Is This Part of a Series?: Yes (Book 1 of the Boxcar Children Mysteries series)
*I checked this book out from the library
This book follows the adventures of four young orphans who are attempting to 1) stay together and 2) keep from living with their presumably mean grandfather. In the process, they come across an old boxcar in a clearing in the woods and decide to turn it into their house. They work hard, get creative using found items, and become friends with the doctor in a nearby town.
I loved this book when I was younger and was excited to read it to my children. It was less mystery-like and less action filled than I remembered it, but it had a fast pace and I still found myself wishing I could be like those kids–a great relationship with each other, supportive of each other, and–most impressively–they make an amazing home out of other peoples’s garbage. And best of all–my kids enjoyed it too.
The Nitty Gritty:
First things first, this book is not truly the same level of writing as what I am used to reading. It is simplistic and overly optimistic. There are no temper tantrums or mentions of sadness over the idea that their parents are gone. Everything works out well for them, really. Every step of the way. But then I remember that this book was written in 1924. society was different then, so why can’t a children’s book be different?
And honestly, when I read a book like Billie B. Brown to my kids, and the children in the story are realistic and have a bad day or a temper tantrum or lie, I sometimes wonder if it is good to “reinforce” this behavior in my children, even if it is normal. When I was reading The Boxcar Children to them, however, I didn’t have any moments where I was worried about that. The thoughts that entered my head in this book were about how the boxcar children were such good examples of children–well-mannered, hard-working, cooperative, active, and still very, very creative and full of their own personalities. So they were both the “ideal” helpful child and still children, really. Not realistic, in my opinion, but still a pretty nice balance. Should we be giving children high ideals and above average role models to look up to? Or should we only be showing them other children like them? I think it is good for them to know that there are both kids like them and a better way to be. So, in the end, I decided that even the overly sweet quality of this book was a positive thing. Something worth noting, but not worth making you throw the whole book out the window.
As for the characters, this is a children’s book, so the main characters are children, ranging in age from 5 to 14 and both male and female. That means that most elementary kids will find one of the Alden children to connect to or look up to. As I mentioned in the previous paragraphs, they are hard working and good-natured children, which is the primary aspect of their personalities (although they do also have a like/dislike or hobby that sets them apart from each other). Their speech patterns and word choices can be a bit old fashioned and formal (this book was written almost 90 years ago, after all), but it is still easy to understand.
When it comes right down to it, this book has been enjoyed by many generations of children and, although it may seem cheesy when you reread it as an adult, chances are good that your children will still enjoy it just as much as you did.
Goodreads Rating: 4.06 (71,743 Ratings)
Amazon Rating: 4.8 Stars (585 Reviews)
My Rating: 3 Stars
This rating comes with a big old BUT attached to it: yes, I am giving it “only” three stars. This is because while it is not poorly written, it is not especially well written either. And while I like it, I don’t particularly love it. However, I am very glad that I read this with my children. They asked for it to be read to them every night until it was finished (and then wanted me to read the next book to them too). 3 star rating or not, this book has been around for a long time for a reason–and is worth reading with your children.