#897 The Creature in Ogopogo Lake created by Gertrude Chandler Warner

The Creature in Ogopogo Lake created by Gertrude Chandler WarnerThe Creature in Ogopogo Lake created by Gertrude Chandler Warner

Grandfather is visiting his friend, Abby, in Canada. Of course the children are going along. Abby owns some cottages along Lake Okanagan, which she rents to cryptid hunters. Those hunters come to the lake in search of Ogopogo, the sea creature, or lake creature, as it may be. Business hasn’t been good though and Abby will probably have to sell her resort.

Some people say a good Ogopogo sighting would help business pick up. The Alden children, who are against people selling their resorts and hotels, volunteer their services to help Abby keep her resort, but strange things start happening. Can the Aldens get to the bottom of all that is strange? Will they see Ogopogo?

What I liked

Ogopogo is real, or, rather, Ogopogo is a real cryptid, which means you cannot confirm or deny that Ogopogo is real. You can Google Ogopogo and will find that he’s basically Canada’s version of the Loch Ness monster. Again, no one can prove or disprove the Loch Ness monster or Ogopogo. You’ll just have to wonder.

There are multiple Native American stories about lake and sea monsters. Ogopogo probably started as just such a thing.

What I didn’t like

I need to make a big list of all the things the Aldens get to do that I didn’t get to do as a child, or that many of us didn’t get to do as children.

Otherwise, I don’t think this one was bad, although, it’s kind of a jerk move to sabotage someone’s business, lake monster or not.

Oh, and, if the Aldens are so anti-ghost, do you think that a lake monster would ever be real in the world of the Aldens? Lake monster are not something people readily believe in.


Come and see the lake monster; you can stay at my hotel.

Weigh in

Would you ever believe in a lake monster?

If lake monsters were real, do you think it would change your view of reality?

#894 The Vampire Mystery created by Gertrude Chandler Warner

The Vampire Mystery created by Gertrude Chandler WarnerThe Vampire Mystery created by Gertrude Chandler Warner

The Aldens learn about a local author who wrote a vampire book. They get to meet him, but he’s having trouble selling his house. Things keep happening. Someone steals his for sale signs. Plants get pulled up. Strange things keep happening in general. There are whispers that it could be a vampire, as the author based the house in the book on his own home, complete with  a graveyard in the backyard. Can the Aldens get to the bottom of this undead mystery?

What I liked

This is one of The Boxcar Children books where the author tries to mix in a little “woo” to the very realistic world of the Aldens. While I appreciate the effort, because it does spice things up a bit, I don’t think it worked.

What I didn’t like

I am not a huge fan of the idea of vampires. I do not understand the obsession. The United States doesn’t have a huge history of vampires. If you visit places like New Orleans, there’s a bit more local lore about vampires than the rest of the United States. We simply don’t have that local history of vampires like Europe does, or even places besides Europe. Vampires have stories from all over the world.

The author tried to bring some “woo” into this book, but it doesn’t work because we know the Aldens are just going to figure out that it’s something logical. The same thing happens with the other Boxcar Children books that mention ghosts or banshees as possible culprits in weird goings-on. Does the author expect me, or anybody, to actually believe the Aldens are going after a real vampire, or ghost, or banshee? There is a running story element in this book series in which the phrase, “Ghosts aren’t real,” is repeated over and over again; vampires certainly aren’t going to be real if ghosts aren’t.

Unlike Scooby Doo, where there are some actual ghosts and monsters from time to time, the Aldens have regular, old human culprits all the time.


A vampire did it…oh, wait, it’s just a guy.

Weigh In

What do you think about vampires?

What do you think about series, television or book, that present themselves as logical and real that try to throw in the supernatural as an actual story element?

#891 The Giant Yo-yo Mystery created by Gertrude Chandler Warner

The Giant Yo-yo Mystery created by Gertrude Chandler Warner

 The Giant Yo-yo Mystery created by Gertrude Chandler Warner

The Aldens are poking their noses around again and get introduced to a furniture maker who is trying to make the world’s largest yo-yo in order to receive a world record. They put themselves to work right away. Things start happening though. Wood orders get cancelled. Plans disappear. Information about a previous attempt at the world record for largest yo-yo comes out. Turns out, someone else wanted to make a giant yo-yo and that person used to be friends with this guy. Who in the wide-world of yo-yos is sabotaging this effort to yo the largest yo?

What I liked

I liked that the author was able to create a bunch of drama surrounding a yo-yo.

What I didn’t like

I almost want to say, “Who cares?”

Sure, you can build a giant yo-yo for a world record, but don’t you have better things to do with your time? Would an object that heavy even function like a normal yo-yo? At some point, there’s going to be a trade-off between mass and the ability to yo, at least I imagine there would be. Does a furniture maker understand the physics behind this?

All of this drama seems a bit much for a darn yo-yo.


YOLO, so make a giant yo-yo.

Weigh in

Would you make a giant anything for a world record?

Has an inanimate object ever caused this much drama in your life?

#886 The Castle Mystery created by Gertrude Chandler Warner

The Castle Mystery created by Gertrude Chandler WarnerThe Castle Mystery created by Gertrude Chandler Warner

The Aldens are yet again on a vacation; this time they’ve gone to a castle, again, I think, or maybe for the first time. Who even knows when you’re not reading the books in order?

The castle the Aldens are staying in is in the midst of some cataloging. There is a desire to put some of the items in the castle, in a museum, but something very important disappears–a Stradivarius violin, worth a lot of money. The children think they hear violin music one day, but they can’t make out where it’s coming from. Meanwhile, they pitch in and help spiffy up the castle. The mystery of the missing violin remains. Who could have taken it? Maybe it was the grumpy man who thinks the Aldens shouldn’t be there. Maybe it’s the supposed castle export? Where did that haunting melody come from?

What I liked

Despite the fact that the Aldens apparently get more vacations in a few books than I’ve ever gotten in my entire life, I do like the idea of a castle mystery. Castles can be very interesting places. I’ve never been in a European style castle, but I have been in a few castles from the Ryukyu kingdom, which are still castles, but they lack some of the sophistication and purposes that European castles had. I would like to go and visit at least one European castle one day.

I don’t know if the Aldens’ castle trip was based on any real castle, but the question of whether there’s a secret room over there, where the space just doesn’t seem right, is something that actually happens in castles. People made secret rooms–maybe for a hideout, or maybe to wall someone up in, or it could have even been for just plain superstition. Maybe someone thought someone else was a witch and those rooms were that person’s rooms and when that person was burned at the stake, they walled up their rooms. Who knows why rooms became secret in the first place?

I wish I remembered the particular castle name, but there is a well-known castle over in the UK where you can walk around the outside and count the windows, then walk into every single room on the inside and count the windows, and you’ll get a different number of windows, every, single, time. There are secret rooms and no one has been able to figure out how to get into them. If you happen to buy a castle one day, there’s a good possibility that there is a secret room somewhere.

Oh and that walled up in your room bit–Elizabeth Bathory–look her up. She was not a nice person.

What I didn’t like

Here’s the thing–these books, The Boxcar Children, are presented as a reality. They’re very logical and they mimic real life to a large degree. Children can read these books and find similarities between the lives of the Aldens and their own lives. With books like this, I think the author has a responsibility to the children readers. The whimsical part of these stories is that the Aldens solve mysteries and adults let them do it. The whimsical part of the story is not supposed to be that the Aldens seemingly have never-ending money and go on vacation all the time. I think the stories would resonate so much more with children if the Aldens had similar life styles. If the Aldens came from a middle-class family, who lived in a subdivision, and solved mysteries in their community, children could relate so much more to the Aldens. Yes, all these grand adventures are wonderful, but it’s not realistic. That’s not to say children’s books can’t be fantastic and out of the realm of reality, because they certainly can be, but generally, with those books, you know it’s not supposed to be realistic.

For the large majority of us, growing up, we took vacations once a year, maybe, to Florida, or to relatives’ houses out of our own state. We didn’t go to Europe or the South Seas.


Don’t steal Stradivarius violins.

Weigh In

Would you live in a castle if you could?

In truth, do you, as a reader, tend to tune out when you can’t relate to a book character because of a severe life style difference between the character and you?

#884 The Mystery of the Star Ruby created by Gertrude Chandler Warner

The Mystery of the Star Ruby created by Gertrude Chandler WarnerThe Mystery of the Star Ruby created by Gertrude Chandler Warner

The Aldens are on their way back home from yet another vacation, when they decide to take another vacation. They’re driving up the Blue Ridge Parkway and see signs for a ruby mine. There, they find out there is a contest to find the best rock gem grubbing in a few days. Grandfather rents some cabins like he’s made of money and the Aldens buy bucket after bucket of rocks searching for precious and semi-precious stones.

Jesse finds a star ruby, which is rare, then the thing disappears, but who took it? Was it the guy who wanted to find a nice stone to make an engagement ring for his girlfriend, or was it someone else?

What I liked

This book is basically set in my backyard, well, close enough. I’m thinking the ruby mine may actually be referencing a popular emerald mine in the area. The Brown Mountain lights are also mentioned in this book, although, the lights don’t really come out anymore, whether they were ghosts, swamp gas, or aliens, they just don’t make the effort to show themselves much anymore.

I also grew up around gem grubbing, so I can vouch for much of the information in this book.

What I didn’t like

Grandfather must just be rolling in money. Look, gem grubbing, while not too terribly expensive, isn’t cheap. You’re looking at around ten dollars, at the least, for a bucket to pick through. That’s for the small bucket. They go up to over fifty dollars a bucket. Yes, you could find some great stuff, but there’s also a big chance your bucket isn’t worth the money you put into it. Some places seed their buckets, while some dredge the stuff right out of the river or hillside. Ideally, you’d want a place that didn’t straight-up seed their buckets. That way, you know if you find something really awesome that it wasn’t placed there by someone else.

People can, and do, get extremely lucky at gem grubbing sometimes and find some stones worth thousands of dollars. That’s the exception. You’re not going to go gem grubbing and find a giant star ruby like Jesse did. You’re also not going to drop, goodness, at least five hundred dollars on the endeavor like Grandfather did. I think if Grandfather got away from this second vacation under five-hundred dollars, he’s extremely lucky.

Who can afford to take a second vacation after they just took a vacation?


Gem grubbing is fun; you’ll find rocks.

Weigh In

Have you ever been gem grubbing?

If so, what’s the best thing you found?