Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Mini Reviews: The Boxcar Children and Surprise Island by Gertrude Chandler Warner

The Boxcar Children (The Boxcar Children, #1)The Boxcar Children series was one of my favorites when I was young.  I don't remember how many I read, but I know I read all of the books originally written by Gertrude Chandler Warner.  She wrote the first 19 books.  There are currently over 150 titles in the series. Clearly, readers were not ready for an end to their adventures.  

The Boxcar Children summary:  The parents of Henry, Jessie, Violet and Benny Alden have recently died.  They have a grandfather who is looking for them, but they believe he doesn't like children and are afraid to go live with him.  As they set out on their own, they discover an abandoned boxcar.  This seems like the perfect place to make a home.  However, as their grandfather is looking for them they need to stay out of sight.  So they sleep during the day and set up their home in the evening.  Will they be able to avoid their grandfather?

Surprise Island summary:  School is out for the summer and Grandfather has a surprise for them.  He has made arrangements for the children to spend the summer on a island near his home.  It will be like living in the boxcar again, only this time it is on an island in a barn.  There is lots of exploring to be done and a few mysteries to uncover.

My thoughts:  These stories are still delightful.  I had forgotten that they really are mysteries.  Some of the titles have the word "mystery" in them, but they all contain some sort of mystery.  The mystery in The Boxcar Children involves their grandfather.  Who is this man?  Why is he looking for them if he doesn't like children?  In Surprise Island, the mystery involves a young man staying on the island with Captain Dan.  He claims to be a handyman, but he seems to know a lot about shells, animals, birds and Indian artifacts.  Who is he really?

I had also forgotten how industrious the children were.  They are constantly working in some way.  They each have a job and do it, but when the work is done, they rest constructively.  Sometimes this means swimming, other times they build things or make crafts.  Occasionally, they invite someone to dinner or have a birthday party.  

There is always an adventure and sometimes danger.  But, in the end, the children are safe and the problems are solved.  This was comforting to me as a child and brought back that feeling as an adult. 

When I was young, my sister and I, along with our cousins, spent time  at our grandparents' home.  They lived in a house in the country surrounded by woods.  We spent hours playing in those woods, setting up our "house" and just wandering around.  I hadn't realized how much these books inspired what we did.  

I enjoyed these stories just as much as an adult as I did as a child.  As an adult I found them to be refreshing and a reminder that it is the simple things combined with hard work that make a fulfilling life.  I highly recommend this series for children or adults.  They also make great read-alouds.  


  1. Oh, how fun! I have never read any of these books but I have heard about them. Thanks for sharing. Great review!

    1. I think you would enjoy them, Kathy! They are quick reads, but so much fun.

  2. These bring back memories. Thanks for the review, Gretchen!