Follow TV Tropes


YMMV / The Boxcar Children

Go To

  • Angst? What Angst?: The first book doesn't show any of the Alden kids grieving the loss of their parents or stressed about how they're going to survive. If one reads the actual first edition, their drunk father died in front of them and their only response is to ask for help from the baker and his wife in what to do with the body, and agreeing without any hesitation to run away when the couple say the kids need to go to their grandfather.
    • Mostly averted in the movie when Benny asks if they're going to live in the boxcar forever. Somewhat averted in the beginning when the couple who owned the bakery they spent the night at wanted to send Benny to an orphanage, prompting their moonlight escape.
  • Archive Panic: This series is infamous for this, currently having well over 150 books in the series including the "special" series of books and the original books by Gertrude Chandler Warner.
  • Tear Jerker: Much of the first book has this:
    • The kids' response to overhearing the baker and his wife saying they're sending Benny to a Children's Home and are going to ask the rest of the kids about their grandfather. This is without actually telling Henry and Jessie. The kids actually start crying on realizing they don't have a safe place to stay and run immediately. Then they see the baker and his wife searching the roads, in My God, What Have I Done? mode that they let four children wander off. The kids still don't reveal themselves, fearing what will happen to Benny.
    • When Violet gets sick, Jessie immediately puts her to bed, soaks a cloth in the river water, and places it on her little sister's forehead. She fears that Violet could get worse without proper medicine.
    • Doubling as a heartwarming moment, the doctor says he figured out that the kids were living in the woods. The reason why he didn't confront Henry or invite them to stay at his house, which he does later while Violet is recovering, is that he didn't want to scare them into running. When Henry comes to him for help, the doctor immediately takes him to the boxcar and helps transport a sick Violet safely.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: Several plot points are left unaddressed in the first book's updated edition and the movie based on it:
    • It's never explained how Mr. and Mrs. Alden died, leaving their kids orphaned. There's also no mention of whether Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny stuck around long enough for the funeral and there aren't many details on the kind of lives they led prior to their parents' deaths.
      • These questions are actually answered in the 2012 book The Boxcar Children Beginning: The Aldens of Fair Meadow Farm; the parents died in a car accident, and the children left before the funeral to avoid being split up and because they couldn't stay with the man they'd really like to stay with.
    • We never learn why James Henry Alden had no contact with his son and the Boxcar kids. Henry explains early that he and their mother didn't get along, but this isn't elaborated on.
      • This is also somewhat explained in the prequel with it being that James wanted his son to live in the city but the son and his wife (the Alden's mother) instead wished to live on a farm.
      • It arguably makes more sense in the first book's original 1924 edition, where his son was a drunkard. Besides disapproving of his marriage, James was likely disgusted by his son's lifestyle and couldn't bear to watch him destroy himself.
  • Advertisement:
  • Unintentionally Sympathetic: The baker and his wife in the original edition of the book. While the baker is stingy and says the kids better pay for the bread they bought since their father was a drunk and died on the road outside their bakery, he and his wife are upfront that they can't take the children in long term but will let them stay for the night. They discuss that the kids need to go to their grandfather because they don't have anyone else and it's not safe for them to be wandering. For this reason, it's updated in the modern version where the baker and his wife see four kids obviously alone and desperate honorably paying for bread, and lie that of course they can stay and work while plotting to send Benny to an orphanage before interrogating the kids about their grandfather.
  • Values Dissonance:
    • You can tell the first book was written in the 1930s because the two older kids are asking for work from adults, and often make enough to earn bread and milk for the day. Also, regarding the baker and his wife wanting to take Benny to an orphanage while letting the other kids stay and asking about their grandfather: in the 2020s, they would be obligated to call the cops first and child services, to figure out the full situation, given Amber Alerts and potential child abuse.
    • In The Pizza Mystery, someone mysteriously gives free soda coupons out to competing athletes, who come to the pizza parlor to redeem them. The kids note that the soda costs more than the pizzas themselves and it causes the family running the place to risk running at a loss. These days, it would be the opposite scenario because corporate soda is much cheaper than freshly made pizza.
  • What an Idiot!: Mac Thatcher, the villain in book #26 (The Mystery of the Mixed Up Zoo), honestly thinks the zoo's owner and the kids will just let him leave town after they found proof of his crimes, which could have seriously hurt, if not killed, a number of animals at the zoo. It somehow never occurs to said villain that they'd already called the cops after getting said proof.