Throwback Book Review: Boxcar Children #17 and 19

Welcome to my weekly throwback book review! Each week I’ll be rereading and reviewing one or two books from my childhood. I was a huge reader as a child and these books shaped my life. I couldn’t possibly get rid of them, so I still have a large collection that I am sharing with all of you in the form of reviews.

#17 Mystery Behind the Wall is special to me because it was the book that introduced me to the series. You can see how dog eared and worn it is. As I think I said before, I got this through the Scholastic book club and loved reading them ever since.

The kids are bored again, especially Benny, so their housekeeper suggests inviting a friend to visit for a while. Thankfully this time it isn’t Mike, it’s a boy from Canada that she knows named Rory. They put him in the room beside Benny’s, and the two boys decide to make a hole through their closets for a telegraph system of sorts. The hole is all but forgotten when they cut it and find a strange piece of blue cloth and a diary from the girl who lived in the house years and years ago.

Stephanie Shaw was an avid coin collector, and the blue cloth was one she used to hold her collection… except there are no coins on it. Smells like a mystery! The kids discover that she made a scavenger hunt for her father leading to the coins, but after they moved away from the house, he never followed the clues so the coins stayed lost.

Of course the kids figure out all the clues and eventually find the coins still hidden just where she left them. Their grandfather of course knows an avid coin collector who knew Stephanie, so he has him make a house call. He buys the collection from the kids and gives them each a coin for themselves.

I remembered a lot of this book, and it still holds up pretty well. It’s definitely still one of my favorite of the series.

What We Missed: #18 Bus Station Mystery. Apparently the kids were on a trip by bus to a science fair when the weather strands them at the bus station and they have to solve a mystery involving pollution. I never read this one.

#19 Benny Uncovers a Mystery: First of all, this cover. Benny is old enough to get a job in a department store (though we still have no idea how old he is!) yet on the cover he’s like 10.

Benny is bored yet again, as most of these mysteries begin, so he and Henry decide to get jobs at the local department store. The first floor manager seems like he’s going to be the source of their next mystery, as he’s gruff and seems to hate the Aldens for no reason. The real mystery is that someone is leaving nice notes for the employees, and there is a mysterious woman who comes in every day who is super picky and annoying. Then an expensive vase Henry orders goes missing and some random lockets no one ordered show up one day.

Henry stays late at the store one night to do some cleaning and keep an eye out when someone tries to open the door but gives up. He does see the first floor manager there when no one is supposed to be in the store, and the man accuses Henry of being the one messing around with things.

All of the employees are invited to a picnic at the picky old lady’s house where she reveals (and Benny had already figured out) that she is the owner who had bought the store, and she was keeping an eye on how it was run before making any changes. She had had a key before they changed the locks so she was going in at night and leaving the lockets and other things.

While the mystery wasn’t a huge deal, I liked this one, and I think I liked it better on this reread than previously. Probably because I’ve now had tons of retail experience. This seemed like a nice believable mystery for kids to solve.

This is the end of the original 19 books written by Gertrude Chandler Warner, so I’m interested to see if I notice any difference with the newer ones. This last book was published in 1976. What I do remember is that the kids I believe return to their younger ages, and the mysteries get more in depth, like they’re consulting with the police and everything. We’ll see how my memory holds up.

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