We just finished reading The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner yesterday. This was the first time I’d ever read it, and I confess I picked it up because I assumed it was a mystery (based on the word mystery being appended to “Boxcar Children” in the series that grew out of it). Since I had never read it, I thought it would be perfect for this month’s Children’s Classics Mystery Challenge. Too, we had just finished Farmer Boy (read my thoughts here), and I was ready to read something shorter.
Although I was a little surprised that The Boxcar Children contains very little of what I call mystery, it was a rousing success with my girls. It is very simply written. One thing I noticed is that Gertrude Chandler Warner used absolutely no contractions in the writing of this story. I find it difficult to read a story without using contractions, so it seemed a little bit stilted and “Dick and Jane-ish” to me. Of course, this didn’t bother my girls in the least–they loved this story. In fact, Louise wants to re-check it from the library!
When I think about it, maybe it is a mystery, still. There are mysterious elements (i.e. unidentified noises, etc.), and it is about four children who are running away from a grandfather whom they don’t like. There is nothing at all scary in the story, so it is a great way to introduce a few of the elements of mystery, though. Its resolution is pleasant for everyone involved, including their maligned grandfather. It is a very gentle story, and I would think that children even younger than mine (currently 5 1/2 and 4) would enjoy it. In fact, in terms of simplicity (‘though not of genre or storyline) it reminds me a little of the My Father’s Dragon series (read my thoughts on this series here and here and here).
Despite the fact that The Boxcar Children did not exactly meet my expectations, it was not a disappointment. I can see why it’s a classic, and I’m glad to have met Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny. I look forward to sharing more of these stories with my girls.
If you’d like to read about what other bloggers are reading for this month’s Children’s Classics Mystery Challenge, be sure to check out 5 Minutes for Books!