#926 Mystery Ranch by Gertrude Chandler Warner

Mystery Ranch by Gertrude Chandler WarnerMystery Ranch by Gertrude Chandler Warner

Grandfather is being crabby, which is weird, because he’s usually cheerful. He tells the children that he’s upset about his sister, Jane. They didn’t even know grandfather had a sister. The children are going to go help Aunt Jane out for a while. They find out that Aunt Jane has a ranch, but it’s too much for her to take care of now. She has a few people hired on still.

She’s a bit crabby too, at the beginning, but she comes to like having the kids around. It also seems like she gets better as time goes on, but mysteries start popping up. There’s a strange shack on the property that someone appears to be living in. The kids don’t tell Aunt Jane because they don’t want to worry her.

They also find some strange dust. Grandfather has some people investigate and it turns out that the strange dirt is uranium. It’s worth a lot of money and one of the chimneys are even made of uranium ore. Aunt Jane has a surprise for the children and they do find out who has been living in the shack.

What I liked

This is one of the original Boxcar books so the story line goes into much more detail and has more in it than the newer Boxcar books.  I like how they’re more complex and less formulaic than the later books. This book also has some origins of some of the things that are prevalent throughout the rest of the series.

What I didn’t like

Uranium is radioactive and the Aldens are pretty much just rolling around in it. This is another place where Grandfather gets all of his money. He has a freaking Uranium mine, selling it to the US government and Russia at the same time I suppose.

It’s crazy that Aunt Jane gives her ranch to children, children–let that sink in. These kids are already spoiled, but they have their Aunt giving them a piece of property worth lots of money. It’s just so unrealistic.


They should have called it Uranium Ranch.

Weigh In

Would you give someone your ranch?

What would you do if you discovered uranium on your property.

#925 Jim the Boy by Tony Earley

Jim the Boy by Tony Earley Jim the Boy by Tony Earley

Jim lives with his mother, his father died before he was born, in rural North Carolina. He’s never met his dad’s father, who lives up on a mountain in a town close by. His uncles live close though. He has three uncles and none of them ever got married. They each have their own houses, but they eat at Jim’s mom’s house. His mother does all the cooking and cleaning for the uncles. There’s a girl that helps too.

It’s Jim’s tenth birthday and he very much wants to go work in the fields with his uncles. They give him a hoe, not the one he wants, and Jim sets off to work. Things don’t turn out so well. He ends up cutting down two corn stalks and he’s not nearly as fast as he thought he was. His uncles get him a new catcher’s mitt and baseball for his birthday.

Time goes on and Jim’s friend comes down with polio. They don’t know if he’s going to live for a while. The uncles tell Jim that he needs to meet his grandfather, he’ll regret it if he doesn’t. Meanwhile his mother debates over whether to let another man in her life. She worries that either way Jim will miss something in his life.

Jim learns that there are things you don’t always want to do, but sometimes it’s good to do those things.

What I liked

This book is somewhat local, which is nice. It’s obviously set a while back. I think the author does a good job of portraying that time period. Some people had electricity and some people didn’t. The land was worked by hand. It wasn’t an easy life.

Jim did seem to grow throughout the book. In the beginning he’s very much a brat, as many little boys are, for some reason. Some of them grow out of it, thank goodness. By the end of the book I can see some the maturity Jim has poking through the little boy exterior.

What I didn’t like

It’s sad not to know your father or your grandfather. I didn’t grow up with my father and my step-father wasn’t exactly grade-a dad material, not by a long shot. I can tell you that it is difficult to grow up minus one parent. There’s only one side of things, that’s the side of the parent you live with. It doesn’t matter if they’re right, or if they’re wrong. You only get their side of things. Grandfathers are also nice to know. The one grandfather of mine that I have been around is pretty great. He’s taught me a lot of great stuff and he’s a good person. My life would be terribly different without him.

This is a round-about way of saying I feel sorry for Jim. I think it’s unfortunate that he’s going without so much in his life, but the good thing is that he still has his uncles.


Don’t get into a fight with your best friend when Ty Cobb is watching.

Weigh In

Did you find yourself feeling lacking if you grew up without one parent?

Do you have a good connection with your extended family?

#924 The Garden Thief created by Gertrude Chandler Warner

The Garden Thief created by Gertrude Chandler WarnerThe Garden Thief created by Gertrude Chandler Warner

The Alden children are helping out at a local community garden. They find out that the land is basically considered public property. The people who garden there do not have garden space of their own. Some of the gardens are large. Some are smaller. Some people only grow a certain variety of things. There are rabbits as well.

One of the women who gardens there, hates the color purple, the actual color, not the book/movie. She even hates the purple carrots another gardener grows. Strange things start happening. Vegetables go missing. Things get destroyed. Rabbits get let out of their cages. What is going on?

What I liked

I enjoy gardening. I like growing things. I think it’s nice to have some plant, you raised yourself, flourish. I think community gardens are a nice idea. There’s actually one not too far away from my house. For the life of me, I do not understand why people don’t mess it up. It’s been my experience that people will mess things up if it’s there, especially teenage boys

Despite the fact that I’m distrustful of the fact that the local community garden is unmolested, I still think community gardens are a neat idea. People get to grow some of their own food and have pride in having a hobby. Also, an ugly lot looks a lot better.

What I didn’t like

Who in the world is so crazy that they vehemently hate the color purple? We’re talking the actual color, not the book and/or movie. I might understand disliking the book; I don’t see why you would dislike it; it’s a pretty great book. I’m not a hater of the color purple. I think it’s an ok color, not my favorite, but I do have a few purple articles of clothing. Pink is my least favorite color, but you don’t see me throwing a fit about something that’s pink. If that were the case, you’d never want to take me into the Barbie aisle at Wal-mart. It’s something very silly to get upset about and almost sounds like a mental disorder. Maybe the purple-hater lady needs to go to a therapy group or something because gardening evidently isn’t providing the therapeutic actions that she needs.


It’s a one-eyed, one-horned, flying purple-color hater.

Weigh In

Have you ever gardened in a community garden?

Is there something unreasonable that you hate?

#923 The Spy in the Bleachers created by Gretrude Chandler Warner

The Spy in the Bleachers created by Gretrude Chandler WarnerThe Spy in the Bleachers created by Gretrude Chandler Warner

The Alden children are helping out a friend who owns a baseball stadium. It seems like everyone has their favorite team, but many people cheer for the local team, but they’re not doing so great right now. It seems like every time they have a play or something planned, the other team ends up knowing what it is. How could this be happening? Is there a spy on the baseball team or is there someone in the stands who knows what all the team’s hand signals means? Can the Aldens figure out who it is so the season isn’t totally lost?

What I liked

Well, these kids are resourceful, I’ll give them that.

What I didn’t like

This may not be a secret, but I’m going to reveal it anyway–I don’t like baseball. I never have liked baseball. It’s boring to me. I don’t want to stand around in a field waiting for someone to hit a ball in my direction. I also don’t want to stand around waiting to bat. I also-also don’t want to sit on my butt and watch other people stand around waiting for balls. It’s not an entertaining sport to play, let alone watch.

Yeah, it sucks that someone is stealing someone else’s hand signals and giving the secrets away to the other team, but that’s just code breaking and it’s perfectly ok for people to break codes in many situations, why not baseball? Sure, these baseball actions were coded to prevent other people from knowing and to prevent having to yell, “I’m going to throw a curve ball,” from across the field, but if you don’t actually encrypt something in a reasonable manner, people can figure it out. Doing straight hand signals is like having a password that’s, “abc123.” Sure, you tried a little to hide your information, but not enough.


Give me some darn Cracker Jacks, or I’ll never go back.

Weigh In

Do you like baseball?

Would you steal the other team’s hand signals? Why or why not?

#921 The Black Pearl Mystery created by Gertrude Chandler Warner

 The Black Pearl Mystery created by Gertrude Chandler Warner The Black Pearl Mystery created by Gertrude Chandler Warner

The Aldens are going to Hawaii. There they hear whispers about something called the Black Pearl. Unfortunately, it’s not about pirates. There’s a cave that is under water part of the time and the Aldens wonder what is there and what it has to do with the black pearl.

What I liked

I think I would like to go somewhere like Hawaii again. It was kind of neat to read about Hawaii.

What I didn’t like

This was another one of those Boxcar Children books that seems a little lacking content. Yeah, I read it, but I don’t recall a lot of what went on.

It’s also not about pirates.


Let’s get in the ocean and swim in secret caves.

Weigh In

Do you like Hawaii?

Would you go diving in an underwater cave?