Under the Influence of Books: Obert Skye

As our guest author series continues, we’re delighted to have author Obert Skye join us in our discussion of The Boxcar Children. The featured animated film, which is now on Netflix, is also available at your local retailer.

Boxcar DVD cover

I admit it, I love the Boxcar children—not that there’s anything wrong with that. In fact in looking back, I can see so many ways in which they influenced my own writing.

I remember when I read the first volume. It had been loaned to me by a kid named Tony who lived down the street. He always wore T-shirts with movie decals on them, and he read a lot of books. He would study books at recess while the rest of us tried to look like we knew what we were doing by kicking kick balls and chasing girls that were clearly faster than us.

I was at Tony’s house one afternoon and saw a huge pile of books by his Star Wars lamp. I had never seen that many books outside of a library. Tony was super proud of them, and when I asked him which book was his favorite, he carefully pulled out a book from beneath his bed and handed it to me. It was The Boxcar Children. I didn’t know much about the book at the time, but I did like trains and well, boxcars are a part of the train family. I asked Tony about it and he said,

“It’s about four kids, Henry, Jessie, Violet and Benny.”

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I thought it was weird that he knew the character names and that he could list them off as if they were members of his family. I also thought it was weird that he volunteered to let me borrow it, after I had broken one of his Adventure People action figures the week before.

I read it in one weekend and loved every word. I could see why Tony had listed the characters like family. They felt real, and I felt compelled to root for them and worry for them. I loved when the grandfather turned out to be kind. And when the boxcar was moved into the backyard I openly cheered. All was right with the world the day I finished that book.

I suppose that’s what a good book does. It takes you away and then leaves you in a spot you’re now happy to occupy. The Boxcar Children was a good book.

I remember a few years back having a discussion with another author about the Boxcar books. I was surprised by how many influences those stories had on my life and writing. There are almost too many to point out. I will mention one. I don’t know if it was my subconscious or just the way things played out, but I find it interesting that I now have two sons of my own, and one’s named Henry and the other one we call Benny. It’s like the characters literally became family.

Long live the Boxcar Children.


Obert Skye is the author of the Leven Thumps series and The Creature From My Closet series.

The Creature From My Closet

Get in touch with Obert Skye through Facebook, @Obertskye on Twitter, or his website.

Under the Influence of Books: Obert Skye

Colleen Gleason remembers distinct, family-oriented images from The Boxcar Children

In light of the new animated film, “The Boxcar Children,” our author series continues with author Colleen Gleason, who read The Boxcar Children, by Gertrude Chandler Warner, as a child. The film features voice actors Joey King, Mackenzie Foy, Zachary Gordon, and Jaden Sand; directors include Daniel Chuba and Mark A. Z. Dippé. It’s now available at local retailers!

Boxcar DVD cover

Gleason remembers the first time her librarian handed her a Boxcar Children book:

It was the first in the series, and I dove right in, completely enchanted with—and worried for—the four homeless children. I loved their sense of family, these four parentless children, and found the creativity and ingenuity of the Alden siblings compelling.

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These reactions continued as I read the whole series—many of the books multiple times. My very favorite was Blue Bay Mystery. There was something so fun about the four of them going to a South Seas island with their grandfather and Lars, the kindly shipwrecked sailor. I loved the environment of the island—and what we learned about everything from plankton to some basic survival skills to the statues of Easter Island.

To this day, whenever I think of The Boxcar Children, the first image that comes to mind is the pink cup in their comfy little boxcar, followed closely by the sunny, warm tropics of Blue Bay and the mysterious stranger on their little island. Sleeping in huts, picking bananas, swimming in Green Bay, and, of course, soup in the turtle shell.

The Boxcar Children were a part of my young reading life, and not only were the books filled with interesting mysteries, but I also felt as if the family of four really existed, really cared about each other, and would always be together.


Colleen Gleason’s The Spiritglass Charade: A Stoker & Holmes Book is out now!  Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, or through her website.

Colleen Gleason remembers distinct, family-oriented images from The Boxcar Children

AWC Podcast Series: Ghostwriting and a Pumpkin Head

We would like to expand upon last week’s podcast topic, ghostwriting, and here with us is Boxcar Children ghostwriter Theresa Golding to give us more insights into how she spins new stories for the eighty-plus-year-old-series.  Click below to listen to our conversation.

In addition to ghostwriting The Pumpkin Head Mystery and The Vampire Mystery for The Boxcar Children series, Theresa Golding is the author of including such books as Abby’s Asthma and the Big Race, Memorial Day Surprise, Kat’s Surrender, The Secret Within, The Truth About Twelve, and Niner.

Her books have been nominated for and received numerous honors including The Mark Twain Award, The Rhode Island Teen Book Award, The Georgia Book Award, VOYA Top Shelf Fiction, Society of School Librarians International Honor Book, PA State Library Association Top Forty Fiction, Keystone State Reading Award, YALSA 2009 Best Books for Young Adults, and Kansas State Reading Circle Recommended Reading.

AWC Podcast Series: Ghostwriting and a Pumpkin Head

Our First Blog Giveaway!

In celebration of Grammar Week here at Boxcars, Books, & a Blog, we’re doing our first Blog Giveaway.  As you may have heard via Twitter, as a fun promo we made silly bands.

We’ve called ours “Book Bands,” and they’re shaped like golden retrievers (from The Buddy Files), winged sneakers (from Zapato Power), and boxcars (from The Boxcar Children) — two of each band in a pack.

Here’s Wendy first work as a hand model:

Now for the Blog Giveaway

The first 10 teachers or librarians to send an email to online[at]albertwhitman.com with the words “Book Bands” in the subject field will receive 25 packs. Please be sure to include the name of your school/library and a shipping address in the body of the email. Send your email now.

and please enjoy the rest of Grammar Week!

Our First Blog Giveaway!

Bookstore Visit: Women & Children First, Chicago, IL

Albert Whitman & Company has been located in the Chicago area for most of its 90-plus years in business. As such, we’ve been blessed – both professionally and personally – with a wonderful assortment of independent bookseller for decades. Happily, this remains true today. In a semi-regular blog series, we will visit “Chicagoland Indies” for your information and enjoyment.

Women & Children First has a long history in Chicago. Opened in 1979, it’s one of the largest feminist bookstores in the country and serves a diverse community with books and sidelines for both adults and children. When Wendy in Editorial and I arrived at the store on another lovely summer afternoon in Chicago, the store had shoppers in every department and our talk with co-owner Linda Bubon was interrupted (gladly) numerous times by people looking for just the right book for the children in their lives (including a very enthusiastic uncle looking at lift-the-flap books).

Of course, we checked out the Boxcar Children shelf — and right nearby were The Buddy Files. Linda says she did not prepare the shelves in the children’s department for our arrival, so it was lovely to see so many of our Fall 2010 books on the new arrivals shelves — and face out!

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The store is very well known for its preschool storytime – in existence for 20 years! In addition, they do a “big kids” storytime for 5- to 10-year-olds during the summer. One of this year’s best big kids storytimes (according to Linda) was for The Boxcar Children.  She had to do a little summarizing to finish in 45 minutes, but the kids loved it and some went looking for more titles in the series.

Owners and staff alike are very proud of the store’s feminist agenda, but really want the public to know that they will find all kinds of books on their shelves. In the children’s section, their feminist focus allows them to include any book they believe will appeal to and/or serve children and their caregivers. In addition to a great new books display and very complete fiction and board book sections, they have one of the largest “issues” section I’ve every seen in a bookstore. From adoption to bullying to divorce — there are books on every topic a kid (or parent) could need. I’m proud to say that a large number of those books come from Albert Whitman & Company.

Women & Children First is located in the Andersonville neighboorhood of Chicago and shares the neighborhood with a lot of great stores and restaurants.  Visiting the store and its neighbors is a lovely way to spend an afternoon.

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Bookstore Visit: Women & Children First, Chicago, IL

What Children’s Book Editors Do on Their Summer Vacations

Years ago, I remember reading a post on children’s writers’ online message board (yes, we editors lurk) about how slow things are at publishing houses during the summer months. “All the editors are at their vacation houses in the Hamptons!” a writer complained.

HA. Here in Chicago, there are no jaunts to the Hamptons for us, only trips to the Lake Michigan beaches.  But sometimes we manage to escape to other fabulous Midwest destinations, such as Mankato, Minnesota. I’m a big fan of the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, so when the first-ever LauraPalooza academic conference and fan fair was announced at Minnesota State University, I knew I had to go.

A LauraPalooza Lecture

The conference was everything I’d hoped it would be and then some, with more than two dozen  presentations and a field trip to one of the Little House homesites in Walnut Grove, MN. I met scholars, book authors, independent researchers, teachers, illustrators, librarians, and even a meterologist who gave a great talk on the weather conditions behind The Long Winter. (And yes, I met some people who were wearing sunbonnets, too.) Continue reading “What Children’s Book Editors Do on Their Summer Vacations”

What Children’s Book Editors Do on Their Summer Vacations