#844 The Mystery at the Alamo created by Gertrude Chandler Warner

The Mystery at the Alamo created by Gertrude Chandler WarnerThe Mystery at the Alamo created by Gertrude Chandler Warner

The Aldens are going to Texas, because Grandfather is made of money. They’re going to see the Alamo and learn its history. They soon make friends with someone who works at the Alamo and a film crew filming a movie about the Alamo at the Alamo. One of the actresses is a nice young woman, but it seems her days are always being booby-trapped. The hot rollers went off. There was a mouse in her dressing room. The steps were broken. It was just one thing after another. Her understudy seems awfully suspicious, but what about the other actor who insists that she’s not a real actor?

On top of all of that, there’s an artifact from the Alamo being used in the movie and it goes missing, of course. Can the Alden children figure out what all is going on, in addition to being child extras in a movie?

What I liked

It’s nice that a bit of history was included in this book. It would have been funnier had they met Hank Hill.

What I didn’t like

Look here, the Aldens are awfully privileged kids. Not only does their grandfather have tons of money, apparently, which enables them to go all kinds of places, but Grandfather also encourages the children, by allowing them to solve mysteries and do things like be in movies. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s just a “I’m kind of envious” thing. My mom was never like, “Oh, you like this thing, so let’s go get you lessons, or let’s go do this activity.” Nope. Each child is not a special little snowflake, but shouldn’t children be encouraged to pursue talents and interests? I wasn’t raised in an environment that fostered my creative and intellectual growth; the Aldens are.


Remember the Alamo.

Weigh In

Were you encouraged as a child to pursue interests and talents?

If you were not encouraged, do you think your life would be better had you been encouraged?

#843 When the Wind Blows by James Patterson

When the Wind Blows by James PattersonWhen the Wind Blows by James Patterson

Frannie is a vet and she lives out in the woods. One day she’s treating a deer and her fawn, the next day, or the same day, she sees something she never thought she would see. She can’t really believe it. She also has a new tenant. He calls himself Kit. She tells him what she thought she saw and he takes her seriously, but he has his reasons.

What Frannie thought she saw was a winged girl, a real, live girl with wings. The two are able to coax the girl to them. She says her name is Max and soon there is a whole story about where she comes from, but she’s reluctant to tell it. She isn’t the only one. She came from a school. She left. There are other winged children and some of them are put to sleep. The two want to protect Max, but soon people start coming after them. There are guns and fires. Can Kit and Frannie save the other children? Can Max help save the other children? Who is doing this and why?

What I liked

I actually found this book quite intriguing. It’s woo, but woo explained by science, or theoretically explained by science. People cannot have wings, nor can they lay eggs. This book was scandal nested in scandal. Frannie and Kit are both likable enough. The winged children are likable. I’m actually impressed with how this book turned out.

Who knows what secret labs do to humans behind closed doors, in secret labs, in the woods, down dark and long roads? There is absolutely no telling. We have no idea the potential human atrocities that occur in the name of science, or greed, or simply hate.

What I didn’t like

Like I said, people can’t have wings. It’s just incredibly far-fetched. Ok, I can see humans possibly having some sort of grafted wings. Possibly a like a very high-end prosthetic, attached to shoulder blades and upper arm nerves. What I cannot see is people having so much bird DNA that wings are inherent and they lay eggs. I don’t think there’s a point when humans will stop being mammals. I kind of think once you’re a mammal, you’re always a mammal. I mean, there are platypuses and they’re kind of weird. Unless you’re a lizard person, you’re a mammal. For me, there is this tinge of “this is too far out there to ever conceivably happen” and that kind of gives me some pause as far as this book is concerned.


You never know what you’re going to find in the woods.

Weigh In

If you had wings, where would you fly?

Do you believe people will have wings if they become angels?

#842 The Clue in the Recycling Bin created by Gertrude Chandler Warner

The Clue in the Recycling Bin created by Gertrude Chandler WarnerThe Clue in the Recycling Bin created by Gertrude Chandler Warner

The Aldens have some things to recycle, so of course they head down to the recycling center. They didn’t know that there were things set aside that other people might be able to reuse. They each find something interesting to take home. They meet another boy there as well. There’s a mystery afoot though–each morning, there are bags of leaves scattered everywhere. The bags are broken and no one knows why. Soon a theft is made known, but what does it have to do with the recycling center? Why do people want Benny’s Piñata so much?

What I liked

Reusing stuff is the way to go. If you can find a new use for something old, that’s great.

I kind of liked that a piñata was a central plot point in this story. It’s a pretty darn important piñata and that’s just hilarious.

What I didn’t like

Honestly, this one doesn’t have a lot not to like in it. Out of the laundry list of Boxcar Children books I’ve read this year, I think this one might be one of the better ones.


Reduce-Reuse-Recycle–by your powers combined, I am Captain Planet!

Captain Planet

He’s your hero

Gonna take pollution down to zero

Weigh In

Have you ever found something interesting at the recycling center?

Have you found a new use for some item that you’re really proud of? If so, what did it used to be and what is it now?

#841 Sophie by Emma Pearse

Sophie by Emma PearseSophie by Emma Pearse

In the land down under, a family got a puppy, a cattle dog, and named her Sophie. The puppy grew. The family’s children went away to college, but Sophie the dog remained. The dog soon took to the water along with the family on their boat. They would take the boat out and explore small islands in the area.

One day, while exploring, the couple went down below deck, for just a minute, when they came back up, Sophie was gone, swept overboard. They looked and looked, but could not see their beloved family pet. They assumed the worst–Sophie was dead.

By sheer determination and luck, Sophie was not dead. She actually swam for quite some time to get to a nearby island. There she survived for a short period of time, before swimming to another island. The islands Sophie found herself on did not allow dogs. The islands actually allow no pets, no outside animals, other than the native animals found on the island. Sophie was in danger of being picked up by rangers, and possibly euthanized. All in all, Sophie survived for five months on her own.

What I liked

Sophie was one determined dog. She didn’t mope around when her humans disappeared, she survived. Sophie is an admirable animal. Her story is heartwarming and dramatic. I’m glad the family was reunited with their beloved pet.

What I didn’t like

It’s sad that Sophie was lost for so long. I don’t know if Sophie was still alive. This event occurred in 2007, I believe. The book was published in 2011. It’s now 2017. That would make Sophie around thirteen years old, if she’s still living.


My dog would just whine and lament the fact that no one was feeding him, if this happened to him–goner is about two days.

Weigh In

Would your dog survive this?

What do you think Sophie’s motives for surviving were?

#840 The Sweeter the Juice by Mark Henry

The Sweeter the Juice by Mark HenryThe Sweeter the Juice by Mark Henry

In the zombie apocalypse it’s hard to survive. It’s even more difficult to survive if you’re trans. There’s only about one doctor around that treats trans patients and he has a strict bartering system. If you don’t barter with him, you don’t get your treatment. The main character of the story falls behind on her payments. The receptionist strikes a deal with her though. There’s this new street drug, that might do what the surgery would do. If she can find out what it does and how, she can get her treatment for free.

What I liked

I do like the idea of addressing medical issues in a dystopian world. What happens when you have diabetes and have to go to the Hunger Games?

What I didn’t like

I have some personal reservations about this book. If you’re trans–fine, I’m happy for you, really. I’d rather you be happy, than miserable. I’m glad we have more acceptance of the trans community. What I am not glad of is all of the young people who say they’re trans because they think it’s cool. It cheapens the struggle someone else has had to go through.  I’m more of a do something because you feel it’s right, rather than a do something because everyone else is doing it kind of person. We all know someone who has hopped on some band wagon just because it was the talked about thing of the time, then later, they say it was a phase, or whatever.

What does this have to do with this book? Well, where is it coming from? Is Mark trans? Does he have a sister who is trans? A best friend? Seriously, what’s the deal? If Mark doesn’t have some connection to the trans community, it kind of seems he’s written this character and this story because it’s a hot button topic right now. On the good side, this is Mark trying to reach out to the trans community, although with some of the things in this book, the trans community probably wants Mark to reach on back to where he came from; on the bad side, this is Mark trying to cash in on a hot button topic combined with our scary creature flavor of the decade–Zombies.

It just reeks of less than altruistic motives.

This book is also gross.



Weigh In

If you were trans and undergoing hormone therapy during the apocalypse, what would you do?

Considering that a lot of literature serves a lot of people in different ways, shouldn’t most literature be geared to serve someone in some way?