Throwback Book Review: Boxcar Children Recap

We’ve completed our first series! Click here to go to the beginning of my Boxcar Children reviews if you missed them.

So, what do we think? The Boxcar Children were one of my favorite series growing up. They sparked my love of mysteries, I always learned something interesting, I have good memories of reading these books. Coming at the series from an adult perspective as well as a writer, they probably aren’t books I would choose to read again for myself. This is simply because I’m not the recommended audience, and there really isn’t much in them for an adult audience as some books have. However, I will be happy to read them to our son and pass them along as he gets old enough to read them himself. They’re nice and clean and contain good morals.

I was kind of surprised that I didn’t remember much about them as I was reading. Some of them that were my favorites, I usually remembered ‘whodunnit’ but generally it was like reading them for the first time again besides some random things I remembered. That’s always an issue with rereading books, some of them you can revisit over and over and some are ruined if you know the twists.

Overall, the storylines kind of frustrated me, probably for the same reasons they appealed to me growing up. Obviously, the kids regress in age after book 19 once the original author stops writing them, and then they never age again. I don’t have a big problem with that except for the obvious passing of time that is happening, such as the kids meeting their cousin, he gets married, they buy a house, adopt an orphan. Seasons also change, but they never age. They never seem to go to school either. School is hardly ever mentioned in the books at all, and they’re constantly traveling to places. In book 6 when they take a boat, they all have books and schoolwork to do. I wish they had kept up with that at the very least.

As an adult, the lack of supervision really bothers me. Their grandfather constantly takes them on trips and leaves them by themselves. I don’t know how many hotels and motels would be okay with a group of kids, the oldest 14 and the youngest 6, staying all alone. They’re supposedly wonder kids who are just so responsible and helpful and stuff, but give me a break. A few weeks living in a boxcar doesn’t translate to street smarts and stuff. Just off the top of my head, they are left alone to explore both San Francisco and Washington D.C. I’ve been to both places and even now I wouldn’t really want to navigate either by myself. End of that rant I guess.

I know these books were started in a different time, but they have no excuse for some of the things the kids do when they live in an era of computers and things. Like for example, they’re constantly getting jobs and working in places that kids would be a huge liability for. Their resumes would stretch pages long, even for Benny who is 6. I suppose them volunteering or being paid under the table takes care of most of it, but who really wants to hire a 6 year old?

Enough complaining I guess. One thing I do appreciate is the fact that the mysteries aren’t ever too hard or dangerous. They don’t tend to get kidnapped or run into people with guns or anything. They’re more realistic for kids of that age to solve, mostly just by snooping and being observant. I’m surprised they never actually made a ‘detective agency’ and hired themselves out, unless that was in one of the books I missed. But then, I guess they don’t really need money, and they never seem to need to look for a mystery.

Top Favorite Boxcar Children Books: The Animal Shelter Mystery, The Mystery Bookstore

Least Favorite Boxcar Children Book: The Black Pearl Mystery

Thanks for reading, and come back next week to find out what I’m reviewing! I will be focusing on a few books by an author I really enjoy, one of which was turned into a movie.

Throwback Book Review: Boxcar Children Special #7

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.

What we missed: The children save an inn, join a baseball team, visit a colonial village, and go to the county fair.

Special #7 The Pet Shop Mystery: The Aldens find a gray parrot that has escaped from the local pet store and bring it back. The owner has just hired a new manager and also asks the kids to help out while she’s at a conference. The new manager wants nothing to do with the kids and keeps them out of the store as much as possible. He’s also acting strangely, giving them mixed up orders and ‘finding’ a macaw and monkey who need to be transferred to a zoo. He claims someone left them at the pet shop door while the kids witnessed someone delivering the animals to him.

Strange things keep happening, like the door of the shop being left open at night and the exotic animals escaping, all of the birds let out of their cages, and animal food ripped open and scattered. And the kids get blamed for all of it.

When the kids catch the manager selling the monkey and macaw to a customer and not sending them to the zoo as promised, they call the owner who catches him in the act. He wanted the store to start selling more exotic pets to make more money, while the owner wants nothing to do with wild animals who should be left in their habitats.

As I was writing this out, I realized that not a lot actually happened in this book. It takes place over an extremely short amount of time and all of the mysterious problems are mostly the same, mixed up orders and missing animals. But it was a nice little mystery and I remember liking this one a lot, like all of the animal mysteries.

One exciting part of this one is that the action actually takes place around school. The kids have an after-school paper route and the pet store job, and one of Jessie’s classmates shows up in this book. I’m not sure why this one is a special besides the fact that it has the activities in the back like the Washington D.C. special.

This is the last book I own in the Boxcar Children series, so stay tuned next week for a recap post and then the start of a new series/group of books!

 

Throwback Book Review: Boxcar Children Special #2

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.

What we missed: The rest of the series. The last one in the series I own is #78, and there are 145 regular books total. Also Special #1, Mystery on the Ice, in which the kids solve a mystery involving a figure skating troupe.

Special #2 The Mystery in Washington, DC: Grandfather is off on another business trip and decides to take the kids with him. Except his trip is in Virginia, so he drops the kids off at a bed and breakfast owned by a friend of his in Washington. The Aldens are all ready to go sightseeing by themselves when they meet Amira, a girl Henry’s age, also staying there alone, so they bring her along.

The kids see many sights like the Capitol, the Washington Monument, and the Smithsonian but what’s far more interesting to them is the fact that things keep going missing at their bed and breakfast, and two men in sunglasses keep following them around.

They suspect everyone staying at the bed and breakfast, including Amira, who acts strangely. She knows so much about a lot of things in Washington but doesn’t seem to know what fish sticks are. Other suspects include the photographer couple who don’t seem to know much about cameras and the artist who doesn’t know about art. And of course the owner’s assistant who has access to everything in the house. The kids sightsee by day and by night try to solve the mystery.

Of course, in the end the thief turns out to be the assistant, who was having trouble coming up with tuition for school. The kind-hearted B&B owner lets him off the hook if he makes everything right, and even loans him the money for school. As for Amira’s secret, she’s the Egyptian ambassador’s daughter but didn’t want anyone to know, so she was pretending to be a normal girl, even though she was being followed by two security guards.

The Aldens spend another vacation solving a mystery. They also spend it alone. Why do the authors of these books keep sending their grandfather away? I don’t care how responsible the kids are, I was barely going to the mall by myself at 14. My parents would have never dropped me off in another state to go sightseeing, let alone with three younger children to take care of.

I don’t have much else to say on this one, other than what is Jessie wearing on that cover? Also, this book being a special, it has a bunch of interesting activities in the back that I never did apparently. It has connect the dots, a maze, recipes and craft projects. I hope our son will be interested in those kinds of things when he gets old enough, they seem like fun.

Throwback Book Review: Boxcar Children #78

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.

What we missed: The kids figure out who is stealing animals from the zoo, organize a party planning business, compete in a bicycle race, and deal with wild horses.

#78 The Mystery in the Computer Game: Henry has a new obsession that he’s dragged his brother, sisters and cousin into: computer gaming! He loves the game Ringmaster, and the five of them worked together to beat it. There are conveniently four or five children and their dog in the game, attempting to find a ring and become the Ringmaster.

Guess what, their grandfather knows someone who knows the makers of the game, and the kids are invited to go to the headquarters to test out Ringmaster II. They meet a cast of interesting characters, such as the nice guy CEO, a man who doesn’t like children, his son who immediately acts sketchy when the Aldens are given a new computer to play on, and their star female employee who is also acting shady.

The kids set up their new computer at home and immediately get into the new game but are interrupted by the son, Andy, who says he has to fix something already. He keeps showing up at their house and when he leaves each time, things are different, such as the network being down or strange new characters in the game they didn’t see before. Things in the game seem to be pointing to real life situations, such as a place being named after a local restaurant, and when they go there who do they see but Jane, shady employee, taking a meeting with some strangers.

The Aldens take their concern to the CEO who wants to get to the bottom of things. Turns out Jane stole her radical new program from Ned, the grumpy guy who hates kids, and was trying to shop it to their rival company. Andy had been planting the clues in the game for exactly that purpose, so she could be stopped.

I’ve always been an avid gamer so this was one I liked reading. I didn’t remember anything about the plot this time around, but it didn’t really hold up. The kids were on some kind of company network and when Andy broke it, the kids decided to buy some kind of software to fix it themselves. They were portrayed as some kind of computer whizzes even though I’m pretty sure they haven’t really used computers before in the series. This book was also published back in 2000, when I was 11. I was always good with computers too, and my dad worked with them, and I had no idea how to set up a new computer back then and wouldn’t know the first thing about networks or how to fix them (still don’t). So this one seemed a bit more unrealistic than normal but I enjoyed the gaming aspect of it.

This is the last book I own in the regular series, there are a couple of specials to get through but we’ll soon be moving on to other books.

Throwback Book Review: Boxcar Children #73

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.

#73 The Gymnastics Mystery: The kids are hosting a young gymnast from Russia named Katya for a local gymnastics competition (because why not come all the way from Russia to Greenfield, Connecticut). From the moment they pick her up at the airport, strange things start happening. A man takes her bag, mistaking it for his, and shows up irate at their door demanding his back. Even stranger, he shows up at Katya’s gymnastic practices as a journalist.

Things quickly start going bad for Katya, with her warm up clothes being soaked with water and her music going missing, as well as a mysterious figure following them around. Is someone trying to sabotage her? Katya also has a strange connection with a gold box the children see a picture of in a letter from home, and also find in a local pawn shop. Katya refuses to talk about her home, changing the subject whenever it comes up, so the Aldens are determined to get to the bottom of this.

It turns out that their friend the journalist doesn’t actually work for the newspaper, so his presence at the gymnastic meet is concerning. He’s the number one suspect until the mother of one of the other girls apologizes to Katya for her pranks, she just wanted her daughter to win instead.

However, the fake journalist is up to something. It turns out he was in Russia and stole a fancy gold box from a mansion, where there was a portrait of a girl who looked a lot like Katya. So he assumed that when she had his bag, she stole the box back and he had been trying to follow her to get it. Except a random man had overheard his plans to sell it and stole it out of his car, pawning it.

Katya admits that the portrait is definitely not of her, since she lives in a tiny apartment with her entire family and had been ashamed of how poor she was compared to the riches she saw in the US.

The thieves are apprehended by the police, Katya wins her competition, and she and the Aldens go for some good old American pizza in a nice happy ending.

I didn’t remember this one much at all, it’s the second to last book I bought so I didn’t have the time to reread it as much as the older books. It seems generally forgettable. One funny part I did enjoy was that all of their suspects were wearing blue sweatpants at one time or another, and it really bothered Jessie. In the end, they see that their local sporting goods store had a sale on blue sweatpants. One more mystery solved.

 

Throwback Book Review: Boxcar Children #72

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.

What We Missed: The kids search for a missing park ranger in the Everglades, find a missing sword, play basketball, solve a mystery involving a movie star hanging out in town, search for buried treasure, and visit a ghost town.

#72 The Mystery in the Mall: Grandfather Alden is visiting a friend so they can go to their high school reunion together, and thinks the kids will have fun visiting the mall his friend owns. Being the Aldens, they’re ready to be put to work. They’re given a job in Penny’s Emporium, a shop that sells a bunch of souvenirs. The owner loves them, but her manager isn’t as crazy about having a bunch of kids hanging around.

Janet is always disappearing and reappearing at random, always with excuses about why the Aldens shouldn’t do their jobs. Is it because she doesn’t like working with kids, or is she hiding something? A mysterious man keeps appearing too where he shouldn’t, like the back door of the store. He seems to be working with Janet as well.

Benny’s coconut painted to look like a monkey keeps disappearing. The first time was an accident, but when Henry replaces it, it goes missing from the store. It eventually turns up on the doorstep of the house they’re staying in, but it’s not the same one. What does it have to do with the mysterious stuff going on with the store?

The mysterious man turns out to be Janet’s brother, who ended up on a smuggler’s ship, and enlisted his sister’s help to return some stolen goods to their rightful home. The store gets a shipment of coconut monkeys, and some of the valuable stones were hidden inside. Janet had been trying to be alone with some of the shipments to find the stones and didn’t want anyone finding out.

I think this book was trying to sound cooler than it is with a smuggling plotline, but it ended up just kind of confusing. I didn’t really like this one as much.

Throwback Book Review: Boxcar Children #65

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.

#65 The Cereal Box Mystery: It’s just a normal day in Greenfield. The kids are out running errands, because apparently their housekeeper can’t go to the grocery store so she sends four kids with bikes to get their food. Benny is obsessed with a sugary cereal ‘Silver Frosted Stars’ and the stars that come inside the box, because if he collects enough of them, he can get a detective’s badge. So the kids buy three boxes and Benny opens one right away to start looking.

But we can’t just have a normal day in Greenfield. After they get the groceries, they see a thief running out of the local jewelry store who knocks their bikes over. He stole a very valuable cabochon ruby jewelry set. There are three witnesses to the crime: the store owner, a man looking for an engagement ring, and a woman who tries to stop the thief at the door. With no leads, the kids are on the case.

That night, the Alden’s home is broken into, and the only thing missing is one of the boxes of Frosted Silver Stars. When everyone has a big bowl of it in the morning from the opened box, Benny finds a special prize: a couple of pretty rings which he gives to his sisters. I’m sure you can see where this is going.

The kids investigate the case of the missing jewelry while they continue to be targeted at home by someone going through their trash, and grabbing another box of Frosted Silver Stars from their boxcar. They finally put two and two together and realize that Violet’s ring is a cabochon ruby, the thief slipped it into the cereal box when he ran from the store, and has been trying to steal it back ever since. But where’s the rest of the set?

It turns out that the woman who tried to stop the thief is actually a black belt in karate, so not only did she not stop him as she could have, they deduce that he slipped the jewelry to her. The kids set up a trap with the police to catch the two thieves red handed and save the day again. And Benny finds enough stars to get his detective badge.

I mostly remembered this one, it’s a pretty decent mystery as far as kids solving mysteries go. One thing I just don’t understand is why the thieves kept grabbing any box of cereal they could find. He slipped it into an open box but then stole a new sealed box. So he realized exactly what brand of cereal he stashed it in, but not the fact that it was already opened? Also, immediately following the robbery the woman accomplice offered to throw away the opened box for them, thinking it was damaged. It isn’t clear if she knew at that point that is where he stashed it. That would have been a very different story if the box ended up in the trash without anyone finding the ring.