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.

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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.

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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

Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ thoughts on reading The Boxcar Children

The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner, the first book in the series, has come to life in the animated film, “The Boxcar Children,” with voice actors Joey King, Mackenzie Foy, Zachary Gordon, and Jaden Sand.  Directors include Daniel Chuba and Mark A. Z. Dippé. It’s now on sale wherever DVDs are sold!

Boxcar DVD cover

Susan Elizabeth Phillips, a New York Times Bestselling author of over twenty novels, writes about how reading The Boxcar Children as a young girl helped shape her love of reading for pleasure:

The Boxcar Children is the book that changed my life. An exaggeration? Nope. Cross my heart. I was seven years old and in second grade. Learning to read had been a terrible struggle for me, and my seven-year-old brain could not comprehend reading for pleasure. And then Mrs. Martin began reading The Boxcar Children to the class at the end of each school day.

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I was enraptured with the story from the first page, and to this day, I remember the sick feeling in my stomach when the school bell rang, and Mrs. Martin closed the book—the story UNFINISHED. Then, the agonizing wait through the next day for the magical moment—would it ever arrive?—when she would open the book again.

After that introduction, how could I not beg my mother—not that it took much begging—to take me to the library to get Surprise Island. And then The Yellow House Mystery. My lifelong love of reading had begun.

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Phillips’ newest book Heroes Are My Weakness is on sale everywhere that books are sold beginning on August 26th. You can visit her website; follow her on Twitter, and like her Facebook page.

Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ thoughts on reading The Boxcar Children

A Step into the Boxcar

By Josalyn Moran

Putnam, Connecticut is home to the Gertrude Warner Museum — a town of sorts — replete with the buildings in which Gertrude Chandler Warner led her life…the houses in which she lived, the church she attended, and of, course, the school in which she taught for decades.

 

School where Gertrude taught first grade

 

A step into the boxcar is like a step into the first boxcar book itself.

 

Exterior of the boxcar (before it's recent paint job)

 

One end of the car is devoted to reproductions of items that were used by Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny.  Whether it is Benny’s wagon, his teddy, or his pink cup with the crack, one is transported back into the setting of the story that started it all.  On one wall there is a silhouette of Jessie watering her garden.  There is an old railroad light hanging from the ceiling; their pine bough beds are recreated (using hay this time of the year). It is such a charming spot.

 

Recreation from Book 1 Scene

 

Another nook is filled with memorabilia from the author’s teaching days.  She taught first grade for most of her career.  There are classroom pictures, report cards, as well as samples of the silhouettes and birthday cards that she made for each of her students.

 

GCW with class of 1945

A real highlight of the collection, however, is the desk and typewriter at which the stories were written.

 

 

GCW desk and typewriter

 

 

A Step into the Boxcar

AWC Podcast Series: Ghostwriting The Boxcar Children

Today we are talking with Stacia Deutsch and Rhody Cohon, the ghostwriters behind many of The Boxcar Children books, including the recent Cupcake Caper. We talk about the rewards of writing characters for long-running series, screenplays of upcoming blockbusters, and cupcakes (as well as a certain secret ingredient that is so secret you’ll just have to find out when you read the book).  Click below to listen.

 

Stacia Deutsch and Rhody Cohon are the #1 New York Times best-selling co-authors of more than thirty children’s books. In addition to their award winning creative chapter book series entitled, BLAST TO THE PAST (Simon and Schuster), Stacia and Rhody have also published non-fiction texts, a young adult romantic comedy calledIN THE STARS (Simon and Schuster), and HOT PURSUIT, a civil rights story (Kar-Ben/Lerner). Their works have won them the Teacher’s Choice Award, the Arizona Glyph, and a SCRIBE award. Stacia and Rhody have also written several licensed properties, including NANCY DREW AND THE CLUE CREW (Simon and Schuster) and THE BOXCAR CHILDREN (Albert Whitman).  They have also written junior movie tie in novels for summer blockbuster films, including BATMAN, THE DARK KNIGHT(HarperCollins) and CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS (Simon and Schuster).  Stacia Deutsch, an ordained rabbi, lives in Irvine, California with her three children. Rhody Cohon, a college math teacher, lives with her three children in Tucson, Arizona. They talk on the phone a hundred times a day.

 

AWC Podcast Series: Ghostwriting The Boxcar Children

Search for Boxcars

I loved reading The Boxcar Children so much that I once created a shoebox diorama version of my own boxcar, chock full of pine-needle beds and a swimming hole outside the car.  Unfortunately the diorama did not withstand the test of time.

Fortunately, however, this little gem has. Last fall we came across this photo of a Bloomington, Indiana classroom’s real-life interpretation of Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny’s boxcar home.

So we are wondering, do you have any boxcar photos??  We would love to see all the dioramas, life-size boxcars, every and any interpretation, large or small.  Send them to us at online@awhitmanco.com or link them to our Boxcar Children Facebook page.

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Search for Boxcars