Gertrude Chandler Warner, author of The Boxcar Children books, passed away in 1979, when she was nearly 90 years old, but we often still get mail for her from Boxcar fans. In this occasional blog feature, we’ll answer frequently asked fan questions, such as…
Q: How old were you when you wrote your very first book, Gertrude?
Kids love to ask this question, and there’s more than one way to answer it:
1.) She was nine! In 1900 she wrote a story about going to the zoo, which she illustrated and gave to her grandfather as a Christmas present. Her subsequent childhood efforts include a story called The Mumps and another called 13230 Gold Dollars (best title ever!).
2.) She was twenty-six! In 1916 she published The House of Delight with Pilgrim Press in Boston, a book about her childhood dollhouse, complete with photos. You can see the cover here, and a closer look here. Only a thousand copies were ever printed, which makes the book extremely rare. Today an intact copy of The House of Delight is no doubt worth a lot, maybe even 13230 gold dollars.
3.) She was fifty-two! In 1942, the version of the The Boxcar Children that we all know and love was first published, after Gertrude had spent years reading the story to her elementary school students. For most kids today, The Boxcar Children probably seems like Gertrude Chandler Warner’s first book, since it’s the first of her books that they read. But of course there’s always more to the story, and more than one way to answer a question.
Answers come from the book Gertrude Chandler Warner and the Boxcar Children, by Mary Ellen Ellsworth.