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The Boxcar Children: The Garden Thief Review by April Elstrom

The Boxcar Children: The Garden Thief
Created by Gertrude Chandler Warner
Albert Whitman & Company
(800) 255-7675
250 South Northwest Highway, Suite 320
Park Ridge, IL 60068

The Garden Thief is the 130th Boxcar Children book, with a modern setting that includes all-terrain vehicles, community gardens, and exercise centers. The four Alden children set out to help their friend, Mr. Yee, care for his garden while his broken arm heals. While they are busy helping in the gardens, they also work to solve the mystery of who is vandalizing the community garden, and why.

The Garden Thief is ghost-written by an unknown author, as are all of the Boxcar Children books written after Gertrude Chandler Warner's death. The book is illustrated by Robert Dunn, with black and white drawings scattered throughout the book. The text has a large font that is easy for seven to ten-year-old children to read for themselves. With only ten chapters, and 107 pages, the book is a good length for second to fifth graders.

I wanted to like this book, and wanted my children to enjoy it. However, they didn't really connect with the story and never begged me to read more. We managed to read a few chapters aloud before I gave up, as it obviously wasn't keeping their attention. I thought that it would probably be enjoyed more by a student reading it to themselves, but I couldn't convince my seven-year-old or eleven-year-old to read it. Of course, they're both boys who prefer adventure stories over garden mysteries. My biggest complaint with the story was that many parts of the dialogue seemed forced and unnatural. Also, as the story unfolded, I found that many of the characters were poorly developed and the villains seemed unbelievable, even for a children's story. As the mystery resolved, I wasn't left with a sense of satisfaction. Instead, I felt disappointed in the book.

Although this book isn't a Christian book, it contained no objectionable language or offensive material. My only concern is that the villains are only reprimanded for their vandalism and theft, with no real consequences. They do promise to stop, and they are warned that they will be watched closely. Despite that, I still think the book would be acceptable to most families.

I realize that I'm not the target audience for this book, but my target audience wouldn't finish the book. This book would probably be enjoyed most by children and families who have read and enjoyed previous books in The Boxcar Children series. It isn't a good choice for introducing your family to the series.

Product Review by April Elstrom, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, August, 2012