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Journey on a Runaway Train (The Boxcar Children Great Adventure) Hardcover – February 1, 2017
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About the Author
Gertrude Chandler Warner was born in 1890 in Putnam, Connecticut, where she taught school and wrote The Boxcar Children because she had often imagined how delightful it would be to live in a caboose or freight car. Encouraged by the book's success, she went on to write eighteen more stories about the Alden children.
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The premise here is that the Boxcar Children, (the four Alden siblings), have been recruited by a secret society to return lost artifacts to their rightful original homes. To do that they'll have to travel all over the world, being guided and supported by the secret society and its global network of agents. The upshot is that the Aldens get to travel, (along with the reader), to exotic foreign locations in the company of a few fun recurring characters and a wide range of one-time guest agents. They also learn a bit about the artifacts they handle. This really opens up the series, and who doesn't like world travel and shady global conspiracies?
This first volume is the tamest of the five, because the premise has to be set up. While still at home, the Aldens have to come to grips with a few small mysteries and solve some puzzles in order to earn the trust of the society. Then it's off to Acoma Pueblo in New Mexico to return an item. By the end they are being pointed to their next, more exotic, destination. This is whirlwind plotting and pacing, with lots of lurking and eavesdropping and clue finding and problem solving and bad guys, (there are always bad guys), and some avoiding and escaping.
This version of the Boxcar Children is fresh and modern. We're in a world of laptops, WiFi and GPS. The boys and girls are equal players, and since the books are new you don't encounter those awkward bits of old-fashioned nonsense that you sometimes have to overlook when revisiting other older adventure series. The writing is crisp and direct and clearly aimed at younger readers. A nice touch is that the older kids often explain more advanced words, references, and historical bits to the youngest Alden, Benny, and these explanations, of course, are also intended to help younger readers follow what's happening. That sort of in-book annotating struck me as a nice touch.
In any event, though, the bottom line is that the books are fun, fast paced, clever, and entertaining. The whole series feels like a good idea, and this book is a fine start.
(Please note that I received a free advance ecopy of this book in exchange for a candid review. Apart from that I have no connection at all to either the author or the publisher of this book.)
The Boxcar children are otherwise known as Henry (14), Jessie (12), Violet (10) and Benny (6) Alden who live with the Grandfather in Connecticut. The children have been going off on adventures, and solving mysteries for 75 years now and while the stories about these charming characters continues to delight young readers they have become a bit dated. Children today have grown up in a time when cell phones, laptops and the internet are more familiar to them than the newspapers, payphones and telegrams that figured prominently in the earliest stories. This limited series of updated adventures though contains all the elements that have made this series so popular for so many years - there are mysterious clues left behind by strangers who lead the children off on adventures aided by their faithful dog Watch and their kindly Grandfather. This time the children have been asked to assist a secret organization to return missing items to their rightful owners.
The books are listed as appealing to readers 7 to 10, with a reading level of Grade 1 to 5. In my opinion the reading level might be more of 3 or 4 than 1, but the stories would definitely appeal to the 7 to 10 group. As is usually the case with books for this age and reading level the Alden children manage with far less adult supervision than any child or even young teen would ever be allowed but the problems presented are all solved by the children using common sense and an occasional helping hand.