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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Before they lived in a Boxcar....

MacLachlan, Patricia  (2012)  The Boxcar Children Beginning  Park Ridge, Il: Whitman and Company
 
Okay, so Patricia MacLachlan rocks and she has crafted a beautiful book in the spirit and style of the Boxcar Children -- but she has got quite a challenge here.  The story starts out with the family living together on the farm.   Even though it is The Great Depression, the Alden's live in a rural domestic utopia.  They are happy and manage to have enough food to take in those more desperate than they are.  There is real community here and the kids you remember from The Boxcar Children -- Henry, Jessie, Violent, and Benny are all as you remember them.
 
But somehow, MacLachlan has to get us from the scenes of love and domestic bliss to the beginning of the original book -- with the kids orphaned and on the run.  And so the arc of the story has to take a difficult turn through a car crash and threats of orphanages and pre-dawn flight from a home they love and missed funerals, and although it ends hopefully, there is a lot of despair there too.
 
I think readers who loved The Boxcar Children will love this too, but I recommend that you read straight form MacLachlan's book into the Gertrude Chandler Warner original.  Ideal for a strong second grade reader and up.  Oh, and if you have a low tolerance for overly perfect children and folksy farm settings, you might want to give this one a pass.
 

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