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Who are the Boxcar Children?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
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The Boxcar Children are the leading characters in a series of children's books by the same name. These books have been popular with American children since the 1940s, and the series continues to be produced, although the original author has passed away. Many children's bookstores carry the Boxcar Children, and it is also possible to find them in boxed sets through various retailers. The reading level for the books is around second through fourth grades, depending on the abilities and interests of the individual child.

The first book in the series, The Boxcar Children, was published in 1942. The book introduced readers to the four children, Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny Alden, who have been orphaned. Because the children are afraid that their new guardian will be mean, they run away, taking refuge in an abandoned boxcar, supporting themselves with odd jobs. Ultimately, the children are introduced to their guardian, who turns out to be a very nice man, and they move in with him. He even sets the boxcar up in his back yard to make the children feel more at home.

After the introductory novel, the rest of the Boxcar Children books involve the children solving various mysteries. The original author, Gertrude Chandler Warner, also aged the children as the series progressed, although books written by later authors retained the children's original ages, which can be a bit confusing. Warner wrote the first 19 books in the series, and the books were so popular that the publisher decided to continue producing books under her byline after she passed away.

Many children enjoy reading the series because the Boxcar Children are resourceful, compassionate, and intelligent, and the stories are often fun and interesting. Each child has a distinctively developed character, allowing many readers to find something in common with at least one of the characters, and the books encourage people to develop problem solving skills and an awareness of and responsibility to others.

Modern readers might find some of the content in the Boxcar Children old fashioned, especially in the case of the earliest books from the 1940s, but the books are still enjoyable. If you have a child in your life who likes the Boxcar Children but wants something a bit more meaty, Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, and the Bobbsey Twins are all good series to consider branching out to.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a Language & Humanities researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon258920 — On Apr 03, 2012

I have a copy for sale of the vintage original 1924 Boxcar Children book by Gertrude Chandler Warner. Published by Rand McNally and Company. The 1924 edition is far more detailed than the 1942 or 1950 edition, that was published by Scott Foresman and Company. The 1924 edition is extremely rare and high collectible! You can view pictures of it, read more facts and history about the different versions of the vintage original Boxcar Children books, or purchase them online

By anon238867 — On Jan 05, 2012

I am looking for a 1924 edition of The Boxcar Children. I teach third grade and I am trying to get the original for my students to compare to the later versions. If anyone has a copy, please post here.

By jirelan — On Apr 19, 2011

I have the 1924 edition of The Boxcar Children. I would consider selling it to a serious buyer. My copy is an old library edition that I purchased from a library sale in the early 1970's. The cover is rough but it has all of the pages and all of the color plates are in beautiful condition. This book is a true collector's item. They do not come up for sale very often.

By anon146292 — On Jan 26, 2011

The 1924 edition is not published online, and it is out-of-print. Therefore, you will probably need to purchase one, if you ever want the chance to read it. Unless you come across someone you know personally, of whom owns a copy of the 1924 edition, and is willing to let you read theirs.

By Lyndex — On Dec 16, 2010

I read your blog and I am looking for a copy of the 1924 edition. My mother-in-law read this book as a child. It was the very first book she ever read and has been searching for a copy. I would love to be able to get her one for Christmas. Can you tell me how to get a copy, please?

By anon127754 — On Nov 17, 2010

Is there anywhere I can purchase a copy of the 1924 edition? Or at least read it? I'm not a collector of vintage books, just a lover of the boxcar children. I would love to be able to read the original version!

By anon21754 — On Nov 20, 2008

The very first original Boxcar Children book was copyright 1924, written by Gertrude Chandler Warner, published by Rand McNally & Company. With illustrations by Dorothy Lake Gregory. This 1924 First Edition has four color plates, is a blue hard cover book with a colorfully illustrated label on the front cover, of which features Jess (known as Jessie in later editions), Benny, and Watch (the dog)! The 1924 edition, is like taking the stories in the later editions, adding extremely detailed descriptions to all of that, plus adding several other adventures & parts to it. There were many story parts & adventures that were excluded from the later editions of this title. This 1924 edition is by far, the best of them all. (I own all of the copyright editions, including the 1924, this is how I know)! Thanks!

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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