189. The Boxcar Children Beginning by Patricia MacLachlan

The Boxcar Children Beginning: The Aldens of Fair Meadow Farm by Patricia MacLachlan. Illustrated by Tim Jessell. (US) - (Canada)
The Boxcar Children, Prequel

Pages: 144
Ages: 7+
Finished: Jul. 10, 2012
First Published: Aug. 15, 2012
Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company
Genre: historical fiction, children
Rating: 3/5

First sentence: "Henry stood in the doorway of the barn and looked out over the farm."

Publisher's Summary: Before they were the Boxcar Children, Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny Alden lived with their parents at Fair Meadow Farm.

Although times are hard, the Aldens are happy--"the best family of all," Mama likes to say. One day, a blizzard hits the countryside, and a car is stranded on the road near their farm. The family in the car needs shelter, and when the Aldens take them in, the strangers soon become friends. But things never stay the same at Fair Meadow Farm, and the spring and summer bring events that will forever change the lives of the Alden Children. 

Newbery Award-winning author Patricia MacLaclan pays loving tribute to the classic novel by Gertrude Chandler Warner in this story of the Alden children's origins and the challenges they faced before their boxcar adventures."

Acquired: Received an egalley from the publisher through Netgalley.

Reason for Reading:  I am reading and collecting the first 19 original books by Gertrude Chandler Warner.  I usually don't read modern prequels or continuations such as this (I didn't go anywhere near the Anne of Green Gables prequel!) but MacLachlan is a widely respected, award winning author whom I've read before so after a little consideration I thought I would give this a go.

MacLachlan is a good writer who especially does the historical very well.  The year is never given, but going from the first BC book, this must be set in the early 40s.  These are "hard times" and the Aldens live a simple life and the book tells the daily life of a simple family.  There is slight drama to the plot but mostly it is a series of events that lead up to what the reader knows will be coming, the death of their parents and the turning of the children into orphans.  This is all dealt with very gently and "not a big deal".  No one should come into this book not having read their share of Boxcar Children Mysteries; this story is not to make one sad as one already knows the grand future of these children.  MacLachlan has managed to keep Warner's simple style of writing while maintaining a quality work something she is well known for in her original work.

Overall, I didn't really find this story adding anything that needed to be told.  It is a simple book, not the beginning of a new series and does not add to the Alden Family canon.  I'm sure it will sell well initially, but has nothing to sustain its longevity.  A slow, gentle story, without much happening, no mystery and simply a preface to the opening chapter of the original Boxcar Children written in 1942.


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