The Boxcar Children Beginning: The Aldens of Fair Meadow Farm

Patricia MacLachlan. Albert Whitman, $16.99 (144p) ISBN 978-0-8075-6616-9
For readers who wondered over the past seven decades what happened to the parents of Gertrude Chandler Warner’s Boxcar Children, Newbery Medalist MacLachan supplies the answer in this partially satisfying prequel. Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny live with their loving parents on Fair Meadow Farm. Times are hard, but the Aldens make do: father Ben works as a carpenter, and mother Kate sells baked goods. The Alden children continue to epitomize resourcefulness, putting on a circus and creating a barn hideaway. They do chores without complaint. Perhaps it’s in character, then, that the untimely death of their parents is taken completely in stride; the children barely grieve. When Henry hints to a neighbor that they will flee rather than risk being sent to an orphanage, he is reminded he will miss his parents’ funeral. “I know that you will say good things about them,” Henry says. And then they’re off. Fans will enjoy this picture of life “before,” but it feels like a missed opportunity to make the Alden children a little less perfect. Ages 7–10. Agent: Rubin Pfeffer, East West Literary Agency. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/02/2012
Release date: 09/01/2012
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