The Quick 10: The Boxcar Children

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I think this may have been the #1-requested series when I asked what books you wanted to know more about last week. And I am a little embarrassed to admit that I haven't read a single one of them! I may have to remedy that soon. Anyway, ask and ye shall receive: The Boxcar Children Q10!

1. Of the 123 BC books and the 21 specials, only the first 19 books were written by the original author, Gertrude Chandler Warner. The rest just bear the tagline "Created by Gertrude Chandler Warner."

2. The first one was written and published in 1924, but it wasn't until its rerelease in 1942 that the series really found an audience.

3. According to the Kansas City Star, more than 50 million Boxcar books have been sold just since 1979, and that's not including any hardcover editions.

4. There are remnants of Gertrude's childhood sprinkled throughout her books. When she was a kid she lived right across the street from the railroad tracks; when she saw a caboose go by and could look right in to see a coffeepot and a table and a stove, her imagination ran wild. She also loved to pick wildflowers with her sister and would spend hours doing so at her grandparents' farm "“ Gertrude's favorite were violets.

5. You would think that a good old-fashioned book like The Boxcar Children could hardly raise any parental eyebrows, but when the book was first published, there were definitely some upset adults. "Perhaps you know that the original Boxcar Children raised a storm of protest from librarians who thought the children were having too good a time without any parental control," Gertrude once wrote to her fans. "That is exactly why children like it! Most of my own childhood exploits, such as living in a freight car, received very little cooperation from my parents."

6. We're lucky Gertrude was prone to illness because otherwise The Boxcar Children may have existed only in her imagination. She was quite sickly as a child and even had to drop out of high school due to her illnesses. Even so, Gertrude managed to land a job as a grade school teacher because there was a massive shortage in the profession because of WWI. When she had to take a break from that due to a nasty bout with bronchitis, she decided she would use the down time to do something she had always wanted to: write a book for herself. She decided if she had her druthers, she'd be living in a freight car, hanging her laundry out to dry on the little back porch area and sipping coffee made on the ancient stove. Thus, Henry, Jessie, Violet and Benny were born.

7. Despite her commercial success, Gertrude Chandler Warner never left the city she grew up in "“ Putnam, Connecticut. She lived there for nearly 90 years until her death in 1979.

8. Warner never married and had no children.

9. Unlike many of the other authors I've mentioned over the past few days, it wasn't Warner's family that decided to continue the Boxcar tradition after she stopped writing them. In fact, the series was stagnant from her last book in 1976 (Benny Uncovers a Mystery) until the 1991 revival (The Haunted Cabin Mystery). That's when Albert Whitman and Company picked up the series and started to produce new ones.

10. Believe it or not, the Aldens are on Twitter! Here's Jessie, Benny, Henry, and Violet. That Henry is pretty adept in his Internet knowledge "“ in one Tweet he references John Hodgman to say that "He is an expert on many things. Including CATS WHO COMMIT CRIMES." But he also jumps back into Boxcar world with, "Mowed Dr. Moore's lawn. Earned $2. Bought potatoes."

OK, Boxcar fans, be honest: did you have a favorite Alden? Let us know who you wanted to be friends with and why.

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April 19, 2010 - 1:34pm
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