Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Boxcar Children: Charles Dickens Meets Dick, Jane, and Sally

by Pa Rock

An acquaintance (I won't say friend, because friends don't force books on friends) who knows that I like to read pushed her copy of a favorite book from her childhood on me recently - The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner.  Fortunately (for my crowded reading schedule) it was a quick read and I liked it.

This is very basic tale of childhood in which four orphaned children, brothers and sisters, have been inexplicably left to fend for themselves in World War II era America.   The older two, Jessie (a girl) and Henry, appear to be somewhere around the age of ten and are essentially the caretakers of the younger two, Violet and Benny.  The children are trying to make a life for themselves while avoiding their estranged grandfather whom they don't know and mistakenly believe does not like them.

There is one bit of drama at the beginning of the tale where the kids have an encounter with a baker and his evil wife who make plans to keep the older three to work in the bakery and place poor Benny in a children's home.  The older children overhear the dastardly plan and manage to escape and hit the road during the night.  Eventually they find an abandoned railroad boxcar in the woods which they proceed to turn into a makeshift home.

And from there on the story just gets sweeter and happier.  It is a story that if one were to initially read it at a young age, it would stay with them as a warm memory of childhood.  Except for the Dickens' moment with the baker and his wife, it is essentially a tale of children loving one another learning to take care of themselves.

I would not hesitate to share this charming tale with my grandchildren.

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