Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.
I wrote recently about Grasshopper and how he’s finally getting excited about reading. To go along with that, I was excited to be able to offer him The Boxcar Children Early Reader Set from Albert Whitman & Company.
For this review, we received four beautiful, case-laminate hardcover books: The Boxcar Children, Surprise Island, The Yellow House Mystery, and Mystery Ranch. Each one is based on the original Boxcar Children books by Gertrude Chandler Warner. Because Grasshopper is still not fully comfortable enough reading on his own yet, we read them together. To get him warmed up, I read the first page, but then he took over and flew through the books with flying colors.
The first book, The Boxcar Children, sets up the whole series. It tells the story of Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny Alden, and explains that they are orphans. The opening scene is of the four hungry children outside a bakery looking for some food and a place to spend the night. That ends up not working long term (or really even short term), so the children move on quickly. They find an abandoned train car, and while Henry works for Doctor Moore, Jessie and the others make the boxcar “home.” Doctor Moore learns more about Henry and his siblings, that they are orphans who are avoiding their grandfather (the only family they have) because they think he is mean. One day, Doctor Moore introduces the children to his friend, Mr. Henry. The kids think this is hilarious – Henry, Mr. Henry. As time goes on, Mr. Henry earns their trust and only then is revealed to actually be James Henry Alden – the children’s grandfather. The kids are thrilled that their grandfather is not mean after all, and they go to live with him. The book ends with them all at his house, and he’s brought their boxcar to his backyard for the children.
The other three books don’t seem to need to go in any particular order, so we read them in Grasshopper’s preferred order.
In Surprise Island, Grandfather gives the children a big surprise: their family owns an island, and they get to spend the summer there on their own! Grandfather shows them the barn where they live for the summer, then he gets on the boat and goes back home. The children are excited to have many adventures on the island! They end up finding many things from clams to shells to broken pottery, to… their cousin Joe. When Grandfather comes for them at the end of the summer, it’s decided that Joe will live them from now on.
We revisit Surprise Island in The Yellow House Mystery. This time, the children find an old yellow house and when they ask Grandfather about it, he tells them that his friend Bill used to love there, but he just up and disappeared one day. The children explore the house, where they find a note that alludes to the fact that Bill borrowed some money from Grandfather, lent it to someone else, and then couldn’t repay the funds. The note says where to find the repayment, so the kids go on an adventure to that location. When they get there, they find Bill! And the box where the money was supposed to be, and though many years have passed, the money is still there. Bill is excited to be able to repay Grandfather and move back into the yellow house.
Mystery Ranch finds the Aldens at Grandfather’s sister’s ranch in Centerville. Aunt Jane is sick and lonely, so Grandfather suggests the children visit her so they can cheer her up. On the train ride there, Benny meets a nice man who shows him their travels on a map. To their surprise, this Mystery Man gets off at the same stop as them. But then they don’t see him again. After many days of taking care of Aunt Jane and her ranch house, she reveals to them that some men have tried to buy her home from her. They also find a hut on the land that looks like it has been occupied recently. They take this information to the sheriff, who introduces them to Mr. Carter – the Mystery Man! It turns out that Aunt Jane’s ranch is also home to some rare rocks, and Mr. Carter is an expert in such stones and has been hired by Grandfather. He determines that Aunt Jane’s rocks are indeed valuable, so a team is brought in to excavate, which saves the ranch.
We have really loved having these books to read. They are perfect for the stage Grasshopper is at now, and I am thrilled that he is excited to read books! And I imagine that in 3-6 months, when he is ready for his first novel, we’ll be getting a Boxcar Children mystery from the library!
Please be sure to visit the Homeschool Review Crew for more information and reviews on these charming books.