Sunday, September 3, 2017

The Boxcar Children 1942 by Gertrude Chandler Warner

This year I made a goal to read 100 books; I am tracking this as part of a Goodreads Challenge, as well as a board on Pinterest. So far I have a total of 61, which today (September 3) places six books behind schedule. (I am currently reading eight books, so if I manage to finish them all this week I’ll be back on track!)

The first book I finished, way back in January, was The Boxcar Children. This was the first in a series of the same name that I originally read as a child. There are nineteen total in the original series, and I am happy to say I now own all of them. I have decided I would like to read thru all nineteen this year, but haven’t really put much effort into it, so I’m only on number seven currently. Anyway, I chose this as my first book for the year because I found another reading list (along with the Time 100 list I’ve been reading through). This one is from Pinterest, and it has 26 suggestions for 2017, which comes out to one book every two weeks.

The first entry on the list is to read “a book you read in school,” which I started at the same time as The Boxcar Children, which was the second entry, “a book from your childhood.” (The book I read in school will be in another blog post.) This was in fact one of my favorites from childhood, and although it has never been a challenge to read, it has always managed to capture my imagination.

This book is about four siblings – Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny Alden – whom we meet as orphans, running away so they don’t have to live with their grandfather, whom is supposedly mean. They end up in an old, abandoned boxcar in the middle of a forest, with grass growing over tracks. They find an orphan dog with a hurt paw, and nurse him back to health, calling him “Watch.” They also find, nearby, an old dump full of “treasures” – broken but useable dishes, a board to make a shelf, some pots and pans, etc. Henry goes into town to do some odd jobs and buy food. By the end of the story they are discovered and reunited with their grandfather, who it turns out is a very kind old man. The rest of the series is more of their fun adventures.

Now, a little about why I enjoyed it so much. Just before starting third grade, we moved across town to a double wide trailer in a campground. About 50-60 yards or so behind our trailer was a set of railroad tracks, and next to them a dirt path leading out of town. I used to wander along that path exploring nature and the things man left behind, and one day I discovered my very own treasure. It was a dump, abandoned, probably long forgotten by the city, or whomever happened to own the land. It was much like I imagined the one in the story to be! I didn’t bring home anything to use, but I did spend countless hours exploring it and pretending to be like the four Alden children.

Reading it again, as an adult, I still had that fascination with the adventure of living alone in the boxcar, finding things to make a “home,” and a sense of purpose and accomplishment. It was a good first pick for this year, and it set the stage for many more great reading adventures. I hope to write about them all (all 100!) before the year closes, so stay tuned.