The Boxcar Children Beginning: The Aldens of Fair Meadow Farm by Patricia MacLachlan
Gertrude Chandler Warner’s children’s books featuring Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny Alden have been beloved by children for generations. Most people should be familiar with the basis of the series: the Alden children are orphaned, and believing their grandfather to be a mean man who wouldn’t love them, they decide to live on their own in an abandoned boxcar. The very first Boxcar Children book finds the kids united with their grandfather who in fact does love them, and takes them in for a life full of mysteries and adventures.
Patricia MacLachlan’s The Boxcar Children Beginning: The Aldens of Fair Meadow Farm takes readers to life before the Aldens are orphaned and begin their journey. Even though times are hard, Fair Meadow Farm is full of love and fun. The children help out their parents with chores since they have paying jobs and can’t do everything themselves.
During a blizzard, a family finds themselves stranded on their way to a new home, and the Aldens happily take them in while they’re waiting for their car to be fixed. The children enjoy playing with their new friends, and are disappointed when it’s time for them to leave. The family decides to remain upbeat, but more changes are soon to come to the farm which will be harder for them to deal with.
It’s been a long time since I read a Boxcar Children book, so I can’t exactly remember the voice and tone Gertrude Chandler Warner used when writing, but MacLachlan’s writing felt very authentic. You could tell this book was written out of respect for Warner and her beloved characters, and the morals and character of Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny are still present.
The only issue I had with this novel was because, as a fan of the originals, I know their parents end up dying, so I spent the whole book waiting for the big event. Usually an anti-climatic event in a novel is disappointing, but the very simple and casual way MacLachlan handles the event is perfect for the targeted age group. You find out it happens, but it’s not gruesome or drawn out.
Fans of the originals, whether adults or children, will definitely want to read this book to see how the Alden children’s story began. It’s also a great way to introduce new readers to the Boxcar Children. After reading Boxcar Children Beginning, they’ll definitely want to dive into Warner’s works to see how their lives turn out.
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