Book: The Boxcar Children (1924) by Gertrude Chandler Warner
Series: The Boxcar Children
Category/Age: Early Reader / Beginning Chapter Book : ages 6 and up
One Warm Night four children stood in front of a bakery. No one knew them. No one knew where they had come from.” So begins Gertrude Chandler Warner’s beloved story about four orphans who run away and find shelter in an abandoned boxcar. There they manage to live all on their own, and at last, find love and security from an unexpected source.
Let’s pause for a moment, shall we? 1924. This book was published in 1924. That’s just a few years after the end of the first world war – and 90 years ago. The language does feel a bit dated in places, but not nearly as much as you might think. This classic has been beloved for almost a century because it’s easy to read, and just plain fun.
I’ve always been a sucker for survival stories, from Julie of the Wolves to The Martian (review forthcoming). The nitty-gritty, mundane details of survival I always find fascinating, and this book falls solidly into the survival genre for much of the book, which I hadn’t remembered going into it. Where do they sleep? What do they cook in? Where do they get clean? Those types of details are answered in a realistic way for the children, and you can definitely see why it would resonate in the minds of young readers – it’s like the ultimate game of playing house.
As an adult, my only quibble with the book was how fast the ending was resolved – I felt like the major conflict set up (with the grandfather) was glossed over for expediency – but overall this is a fantastic chapter book for early readers.
I vaguely seem to remember reading dozens of the other books, and enjoying them greatly as well.
Did you read The Boxcar Children in your childhood? What did you think?
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