Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Boxcar Babies Rule

             I love the library.  I still borrow books there, and love the feel of the crinkly plastic jackets and the powdery edges of the pages, which I know have been softened by many readers before me.
          Last week I was in line just as a mother joined me, her little girl holding one of The Boxcar Children books.  “Oh, the Boxcar Children!” I gasped.  “I love how they speak to each other!” Maybe I was a tad louder than is library appropriate.
          “You go first,” I said, mimicking the characters.  “No, you go first.”  It’s a mother’s dream to have children who act like this, who offer the last cookie to their sibling, or hold open the door so their brother can go first. 
“Here—let me do the dishes for you.” 
“Shh… let’s all be quiet so she can sleep.”
          Neither the mother, nor her daughter, joined in my elation. Maybe they actually have a Boxcar family and talk with utmost generosity all day long. Maybe the kids iron one another’s clothes, and hurry up in the bathroom so a waiting brother can use it. 
          I have no idea how many novels about Henry, Jessie, Violet and Benny I read as a child, and then read to my children, hoping their incredible courtesy would rub off. A woman named Gertrude Chandler Warren invented them back in the 1920s, and they have remained popular for 90 years.  Partly it’s because they’re orphans (though no details explain why), and they survive on their own.  More resourceful even than MacGyver, these kids figure out how to cook, clean, repurpose garbage, travel, make money, live in a boxcar, solve crimes—and do it all with a wink and smile.
          “We Aldens always seem to have an exciting time on vacation no matter where we go,” one of them says in their Schoolhouse Mystery. This is a far cry from, “Are we there, yet?” or “I’m not having any fun here!”
          And so I picture that mother and daughter sitting down to enjoy The Boxcar Children and I wonder if the mom will do what I used to do, and think about the hobos who used to ride the trains, and wonder if maybe they were onto something.  If nothing else, a great attitude.
          On the other hand, there’s my comedy novel, Sisters in the Mix, about two women who couldn’t disagree more.  One has both OCD and a TV cooking show, and the other is a free-spirited artist who comes to live with her.  Check out what happens here.       

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