Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Boxcar Children: The Secret Horse (1993)

There is a subspecies of horse book in the regular children's book, often a series, which has a horse plot. Much like a film with a horse plot, these books are usually terrible. But they have a horse on the cover, so what choice do horse-crazy children really have? In this case, they'd be better off reading the original book in the series, The Boxcar Children, which is a classic.

The Boxcar Children - The Mystery Horse (#34)
created by Gertrude Chandler Warner, il. Charles Tang
1993, Scholastic

There was a scuffling noise, and suddenly Mr. Morgan emerged from the stall, leading a beautiful chestnut-colored horse. The horse was tall and slender, and it pranced gracefully with its head held high.

The Alden family visits a farm called Sunny Oaks, where Benny and Jessie learn to make preserves, Henry unloads hay and the entire family investigates the mysterious horse being kept hidden in a back barn.

Another installment of the Boxcar Children series, with only mild horsey aspects. The drawings throughout are strangely unprofessional, but the writing is adequate. The plotting and action are slow, the characters uninspired. The writer clearly knows the basics - there are detailed descriptions of activities like cooking and eating, but the writing fails to make them work.

After the peaches were peeled and crushed, Benny added lots of sugar, a little lemon juice, and some candied ginger. Jessie added a package of pectin to make the jam thicken, and stirred the big pot on the stove.

The horse aspects are fairly unrealistic - the horse in hiding is a racehorse, presumably a stallion, being ridden at night by a farmer and led at the end by a little girl.

Wind Dancer/Star - 16h chestnut Thoroughbred

Information about the series
Gertrude Chandler Warner wrote the first 19 books. She died in 1979, and the series was resurrected in 1991 as The Boxcar Children Mysteries.

Book Links
Series originator Gertrude Chandler Warner lived in Putnam, Conneticut, which now operates a museum - fittingly, inside a red boxcar - of her life.

The series is owned by the Albert Whitman & Company publishers

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