Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Boxcar Children

This is another read aloud/chapter book suggested by the Sonlight curriculum.  I read this as a child and remember thinking how cool it was that the kids lived in a boxcar.  The girls loved this book; Catherine frequently brought it to me and asked me to read her a chapter.  Therefore, it only took us four days to read it.
The book opens with the children staying in a bakery.  No explanation is given, but their parents are dead.  During the night, the children overhear the bakers talking of their plans to send the youngest child, Benny, to an orphanage and keep the oldest three children.  Not wanting to be separated, the children decide to leave the bakery on their own.

They spend a few nights in a field before the children locate a boxcar in the woods and move in to it.  The children are remarkably resourceful.  They go to a dump and locate dishes, pots, pans, etc.  They make mattresses out of pine needles and old blankets.  They build a fire pit and string a kettle across it to cook.  They build a pool in a creek near their box car to bathe in.  The older children make easy readers to teach the youngest child to read.

The oldest child, Henry, walks into town every day.  He does odd jobs for a few dollars (mows lawns, cleans out garages, etc).  He comes home with some food for his siblings every day.

We had some interesting discussions about how my girls would take care of themselves if we were gone!

Throughout the story, the children mention avoiding their "grandfather," even using fake last names so they do not get found.  Perhaps it is my juvenile law history, but I was wondering why they were avoiding their grandfather.  Did he molest them?  Was he abusive?  My mind took a negative turn. 

The truth is the children had never met their grandfather and simply did not know him.  Eventually they do meet him, love him, and go to live with them.

The book has a mysterious element to it, which I think is what kept the kids interested.  In every chapter something new and "exciting" happened.  I would recommend this book for boys and girls, as there are two of each gender and they experience so many adventures.  

I was a little uncomfortable about reading this book, because the parents are dead and the kids living alone in the woods, fending for themselves by digging through the local dump. 

The book was written in the 1920's.  I wonder if it was "fine" for kids to be on their own at that time.  Gertrude Chandler Warner wrote 19 books, all set in the 1940's and 1950's.  After the first book, they are set in locations the children visit on vacation or summer breaks.  Another 80 or so books were written by other authors and are set in present day. I have checked out another one of the books Warner wrote from the library to try.  I think the kids loved the "mystery" element of the book and this is a great introduction to that genre.

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