The Boxcar Children — October Memoir Challenge
This is my eighth post, for age 8, of the October Memoir and Backstory Challenge hosted by Jane Anne McLachlan. My previous posts: Baby Speed Eater, Two Tales, Curls, Most Magical Christmas, Kindergarten, Places, and Mental Health in 1969.
My mother told me that I came home from school on the first day of first grade saying, “You said that I would love learning to read, and I do!”
I may have loved learning to read in first grade, but it was in third grade, with chapter books, when reading became a pastime. I read during every spare moment and my parents began to describe me as “always with her nose in a book.”
Given yesterday’s awareness of issues around abandonment and preparedness, it’s probably inevitable that the first series I remember falling in love with was The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner — those kids had survival skills. According to the bio at the website for Gertrude Chandler Warner museum in Putnam, Connecticut (housed in a boxcar, of course), Warner told her fans:
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! 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.
Librarians tend to avoid making that sort of criticism these days, embracing the philosophy that any book that kids will read is a good book. But, I have to admit, it sometimes drove me to distraction that the kids in Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling avoided consulting the very capable adults around them. I remembered the quote from Gertrude Chandler Warner and had to admit that if I were 8 or 10 or 15, the reliance that Harry, Ron, and Hermione had on each other would be more appealing without adult interference.
What do you think about children’s books that feature an unrealistically low level of adult supervision?
I hardly ever notice it, having grown up on those Victorian children’s books in which the parents are conveniently in another wing of the house consorting with other adults. But when I read John Green a few years ago, I noticed it. He has to contort his adult characters a little more to get them as far away from the adolescent action as he needs them to be.
When I read those books as a kid I LOVED them. I wanted to BE the boxcar kids! 🙂
I wanted so badly to learn to read. By the time I started school, I could read a little, but not nearly enough. When I was in the third grade my teacher read The Boxcar Children to my class also. And I loved it. I checked it out of the library to read it myself. A couple of other well loved books were the Dr DoLittle books and Pippi Longstockings.
I was fascinated that the Boxcar children were able to live pretty much on their own. Just hearing that story made me feel that I could be much more self-reliant. I think those sorts of books give a lot to children. 🙂
I loved this series as a kid! I really need to find them for my 2nd grade daughter.
My early years on the farm were incredibly independent. When we moved to the suburbs, it was a culture class because of all the stay-at-home moms kept an eye on the neighborhood. Frequently even there the instructions were, stay out side until suppertime, just stay out of trouble. I worry now about the over-scheduling of kids’ lives. Loved the Box Car Children.
Wonderful book memories! Books were so important. I’m glad they still are for this Harry Potter generation. Many of us are writing about school days, it seems. I’m about to do that, too.
I enjoyed reading your thoughts!
I remember LOVING these books when I was a kid and even pretending we were the boxcar children with my friends playing in the woods behind our houses. I remember being so excited to read the first book to my daughter when she was maybe 10 or so and then as I was reading I became horrified. LOL! I kept stopping to explain to my daughter why the things the kids were doing was such a bad idea and what she should do in similar situations. She would say, “Mom, I KNOW! This is just pretend. Keep reading.” 😉
That’s so funny! I love your daughter’s response.
Interesting question. When I think back, I did keep my mom out of my adventures as a child, and there were times I should have asked her help sorting things out or dealing with problems. I had a great relationship with my mom, but if I’d told her half the things I got up to, she would have 1. punished (rarely) 2. been disappointed (often, I regret to say) 3. worst of all, refused permission. My philosophy toward adults was, what they don’t know, they can’t forbid. I think that’s why kids accept without question when kids in books do all these things and the adults don’t even know. It’s real life!
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Well all of us that have dabbled in fiction writing understand that the story is really made of conflict, and if the conflict is too easily fixed, such as by adult supervision, well that’s a plot killer for sure!
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