First published in 1942, The Boxcar Children is a series of chapter books for kids ages six and up. The story centers on four orphaned siblings and their adventures. Original author Gertrude Chandler Warner wrote nineteen books in the series, but since then, many authors have contributed over a hundred more titles.
The four Alden children have lost their parents and are terrified to go live with a grandfather they know nothing about. They run away and end up living in a boxcar they find in the forest. When the kids meet this mysterious grandfather, he is better than they could have imagined and even moves the boxcar to his house so the kids can still use it. In each subsequent novel, the children work together to solve brief mysteries. Common Sense Media gives the series five out of five stars thanks to the positive messages, characters and educational value.
The Boxcar Children Mysteries
Warner wrote the original series and most of the titles fall into the collection known as The Boxcar Children Mysteries. Warner's first eighteen books are:
- Surprise Island
- The Yellow House Mystery
- Mystery Ranch
- Mike's Mystery
- Blue Bay Mystery
- The Woodshed Mystery
- The Lighthouse Mystery
- Mountaintop Mystery
- Schoolhouse Mystery
- Caboose Mystery
- Snowbound Mystery
- Tree House Mystery
- Bicycle Mystery
- Mystery in the Sand
- Mystery Behind the Wall
- Bus Station Mystery
- Benny Uncovers a Mystery
Throughout the series, many characters are introduced either as important for only one book or in recurring roles. However, the series centers on the Alden family, who appear in every book.
- Henry Alden - At age 14, Henry is the oldest of the children and feels it's his job to take care of his siblings. He doesn't shy away from making responsible decisions.
- Jessie Alden - Jessie is the next oldest Alden child and the oldest girl in the family. While she embodies the perfect housewife in her domestic abilities, Jessie also has great survival instincts and skills.
- Violet Alden - Although all the Alden children are great kids, Violet has a superior ability to infuse every situation with optimism. She also knows all the secrets to getting younger brother Benny to cooperate.
- Benny Alden - The youngest of the Alden children, Benny is only six years old. Benny has an adventurous spirit and thirst for knowledge, so he's always asking questions.
- James Henry Alden - Mr. Alden is the grandfather of Henry, Jessie, Violet and Benny. He is a wealthy, kind man. He displays understanding and compassion toward the children once they give him a chance.
Since 1991, there have been over 120 new titles written by various authors as an extension of the original mysteries. These books delve into more modern scenarios and settings to stay relevant in the lives of children across generations.
Written by acclaimed author Patricia MacLachlan, The Boxcar Children Beginning: The Aldens of Fair Meadow chronicles the life of the Alden kids before their parents' deaths. Published in 2012, readers get the chance to meet Ben and Kate Alden, the boxcar children's parents, and see how they all live together on a farm. Publisher's Weekly calls the book "partially satisfying" because readers do learn what happened to the Alden parents, but the children's reaction to their parents' death seems unemotional.
The Adventures of Benny & Watch
Young readers get to know more about Benny Alden, the youngest of the siblings, in this early reader series aimed at kids ages six to eight. Watch is Benny's trusted dog and sidekick who helps him solve simple mysteries at home and around town. The rest of the Alden clan also appear in The Adventures of Benny & Watch which features twelve books illustrated by Daniel Mark Duffy and Kay Life.
- Meet the Boxcar Children
- A Present for Grandfather
- Benny's New Friend
- The Magic Show Mystery
- Benny Goes Into Business
- Watch Runs Away
- The Secret Under the Tree
- Benny's Saturday Surprise
- Sam Makes Trouble
- Watch, the Superdog!
- Keys and Clues for Benny
- Benny's Boxcar Sleepover
Featuring eighteen titles, the Boxcar Children graphic novel series takes the original books and adapts them for a modern audience. A variety of authors and illustrators collaborate to bring all the old classics to life with engaging images and updated text. Authors include Shannon Eric Denton, Rob M. Worley, Joeming Dunn and Christopher E. Long. Aimed at kids in second through fourth grade, each novel runs about 32 pages long. For the most part, the titles mirror the original series titles with a few exceptions.
These titles are new:
- The Haunted Cabin Mystery, Book #9
- The Amusement Park Mystery, Book #10
- The Pizza Mystery, Book #11
- The Castle Mystery, Book #12
Created to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the original series, The Boxcar Children Great Adventure miniseries features five books. This exciting collection takes the Alden kids around the world on a special mission to ensure lost artifacts make it back to where they belong. The mysterious Reddimous Society enlists the Aldens' help in these daring adventures each spanning around 150 pages. While the original series author still gets credit on the covers, each book in this edition is authored by Dee Garretson and J.M. Lee and published in 2017.
- Journey on a Runaway Train
- The Clue in the Papyrus Scroll
- The Detour of the Elephants
- The Shackleton Sabotage
- The Khipu and the Final Key
First published in 1993 The Boxcar Children Special Series features 21 titles illustrated by Charles Tang.
- The Mystery on the Ice
- The Mystery in Washington D.C.
- The Mystery at Snowflake Inn
- The Mystery at the Ballpark
- The Pilgrim Village Mystery
- The Mystery at the Fair
- The Pet Shop Mystery
- The Niagara Falls Mystery
- The Mystery in the Old Attic
- The Windy City Mystery
- The Mystery of the Queen's Jewels
- The Mystery of the Black Raven
- The Mystery in New York
- The Home Run Mystery
- The Honeybee Mystery
- The Mystery of the Screech Owl
- The Mystery of the Tiger's Eye
- The Mystery of Alligator Swamp
- The Great Shark Mystery
- The Black Widow Spider Mystery
Praise and Adaptations
While the series has maintained popularity for over 75 years, the individual books and series as a whole have not won many prestigious awards. However, readers across generations have found other ways to give praise for these beloved books.
- Alabama Camellia Children's Choice Book Award.
- 2004 - The Gertrude Chandler Warner Boxcar Children Museum opens in Putnam, Connecticut.
- 2007 - The Boxcar Children gets credit as a Top 100 books for children pick by teachers in a National Education Association poll.
- 2012 - The Boxcar Children is named in the Top 100 Children's Novels by School Library Journal.
- 2013 - The first book from the entire series, The Box-Car Children, is available as an e-book to read free on Gutenberg.
- 2014 - The Boxcar Children animated movie premiers starring Martin Sheen as Grandfather.
- 2016 - The first five books written by Warner are translated into Spanish.
A Wholesome Dose of Mystery
Parents, educators and children agree The Boxcar Children series and its characters are fun to read about and make great role models. Whether your child is a reluctant or avid reader, these titles offer something for every kid.