Published in 1924 and re-issued in 1942, The Boxcar Children series was written by Gertrude Chandler Warner, a first-grade teacher who wrote the first book so her students—many who were just learning to speak English—would have an easy and fun book to read.
While writing the first story, Warner read each chapter to her class and then re-wrote it based on the children’s reactions. The children loved the book so much that Warner ended up writing a total of 19 books about the boxcar children with titles like Snowbound Mystery, Surprise Island and Mystery Ranch. Today the series, continued after the author’s death, contains over 100 titles and 21 special issues.
The books are “easy chapter” books and are aimed at readers in grades 2-4. The first book, The Boxcar Children, tells the story of 4 orphaned siblings who run away and live in an abandoned train boxcar sitting in the woods. In order to survive, the children, Henry, 14; Jessie, 12; Violet, 10; and Benny, 5, must be very resourceful and independent, so they set about to create a comfortable and safe home in the boxcar, furnishing it with items they collect from the local dump. They are soon joined by an injured dog that they name Watch, who becomes their loyal guardian.
By the end of the first book, the children are reunited with their loving grandfather, who then moves the boxcar to his home so his grandchildren can continue to use it as a clubhouse. After the first book, the story continues with the children solving mysteries as they grow up.