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The Spy Game

The Spy Game

5.0 2
by Gertrude Chandler Warner

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When the Boxcar Children uncover a strange puzzle in a friend’s backyard, it’s just the beginning of the “spy game”—a search for clues leading to gold! The children must make sense of a mysterious old photo and a riddle. But soon the children begin to suspect that there’s a mystery inside the mystery. Just who is behind this


When the Boxcar Children uncover a strange puzzle in a friend’s backyard, it’s just the beginning of the “spy game”—a search for clues leading to gold! The children must make sense of a mysterious old photo and a riddle. But soon the children begin to suspect that there’s a mystery inside the mystery. Just who is behind this spy game, anyway?

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Claudia Mills
In this umpteenth title of the perennially popular "Boxcar Children Mysteries" series, the four Alden children, who themselves have solved dozens upon dozens of mysteries, have the opportunity to interact in an unforeseen way with their own favorite mystery series, the "Detective Club" series. The author of this title of the "Boxcar Children Mysteries" has the formula completely under control, inserting just the right kind of intriguing clues at just the right moments: why does Mrs. Dawson seem to spill her cream on purpose when Amanda Penner's background as a writer is mentioned? Why do the overturned stones in the pavement at Amanda's old mansion seem to form a secret message? Can the children decipher the series of clues left by Amanda's now dead grandfather to lead them to "something made out of gold"? The resolution of the mystery may feel like a bit of a cheat, and a preposterously engineered cheat at that (would its perpetrators really go to such extravagant efforts for the intended payoff?). Never mind: it is all plenty of fun. The clues are set out so that readers can be one step ahead of Benny, Violet, Jessie, and Henry, and it is also amusing to see the mystery series within a mystery series, accompanied by playful reflection on what it takes to craft such kid-pleasing books. Reviewer: Claudia Mills, Ph.D.
School Library Journal
Gr 2-4–Bennie, Jessie, Violet, and Henry Alden are helping a neighbor remove some slippery stones when they discover a strange inscription. The mystery-solving siblings jump at the chance for another adventure and discover right away that Amanda has a secret of her own. They don’t press her to reveal it and instead pursue additional clues. Hoping to find the mysterious gold mentioned on the stone, the busy sleuths unearth even more questions. Everything seems to be coming together when they overhear conversations that lead the children to believe that Amanda’s friends are trying to steal the treasure from her. Red herrings abound, which are sure to keep readers interested and on their toes. The story is wrapped up neatly, with a few surprises. A few full-page drawings are scattered throughout. A quick read, with special appeal for reluctant readers.–Julie Shatterly, South County Regional Library, Charlotte, NC

Product Details

Whitman, Albert & Company
Publication date:
Boxcar Children Series , #118
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
File size:
1 MB
Age Range:
6 - 10 Years

Read an Excerpt

The Spy Game



Copyright © 2009 Albert Whitman & Company
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4532-2907-1


An Offer to Help

"Look!" cried six-year-old Benny. "Watch is sniffing out clues."

Benny was drawing a picture of his dog, Watch.

Ten-year-old Violet looked over at her little brother's drawing. "I can see that," she said with a smile. "He's following a trail of footprints."

The real Watch was curled up nearby in the grass. He enjoyed looking for clues but he liked naps, too.

"Dogs make very good detectives," added Jessie, who was twelve. "That's a great idea for a T-shirt, Benny."

The youngest Alden held up his picture. "You really think so?"

Henry gave Benny the thumbs-up sign. "I bet your design wins first prize!" he said. At fourteen, Henry was the oldest of the four children.

It was a sunny afternoon and the Aldens—Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny—were sprawled out on the grass in the backyard. Their favorite mystery book series was holding a contest. The best design to go on the front of a T-shirt would win a copy of the latest Detective Club book—autographed by the authors themselves, Mila Jones and Jake Winston.

"That's a great design, too, Violet!" Jessie was admiring her sister's drawing of a girl looking through binoculars.

"Thanks, Jessie." Violet was sorting through a pile of broken crayons. "I just need a crayon to color the girl's headband."

Henry held out a purple crayon. "Is this what you're looking for?"

"How did you know?" Violet asked.

"Oh, just a hunch," Henry said. Everyone knew that purple was Violet's favorite color. She almost always wore something purple or violet.

"I'm almost done, too." Henry was adding a big X to mark the spot on his treasure map drawing.

Jessie looked over her own drawing. "I'm not sure what color to make my clubhouse."

"How about red?" said Benny.

This made Jessie smile. "Red like our boxcar?" She thought for a minute, then picked up a red crayon. "Sounds good to me."

After their parents died, the four Alden children had run away. For a while, their home was an empty boxcar in the woods. But then their grandfather, James Alden, found them, and he brought his grandchildren to live with him in his big white house in Greenfield. And the boxcar had come along, too. Now it had a special place in the backyard. The Aldens often used it as a clubhouse.

"I sure hope we win," said Benny.

"The Detective Club books are very popular," Violet reminded her little brother as she gathered up the crayons. "The publishing company will probably get thousands of entries."

"That's true," said Jessie. "Mila Jones and Jake Winston write great mysteries."

"Will you read another chapter tonight, Jessie?" Benny asked. The children were in the middle of The Twisted Clue, the latest in the Detective Club series.

"Sure, Benny," Jessie said. "We all want to know what happens next."

There was nothing the Aldens loved more than a mystery. They'd solved many of their own.

"I sure could use a cold glass of lemonade," Henry said.

"I'll second that!" Benny jumped to his feet. "Know what else would hit the spot?"

"Mrs. McGregor's chocolate chip cookies?" Henry guessed. "It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that out, Benny." The youngest Alden was known for his appetite.

But Benny wasn't listening. He was already racing full-speed across the lawn, with Watch close behind.

In the kitchen they found Mrs. McGregor having a cup of tea with her good friend, Mrs. Dawson.

"Perfect timing!" Mrs. McGregor smiled at the children. "Still warm from the oven," she said, holding out a plate of cookies.

"Pull up a chair and join us," Mrs. Dawson invited them. "It's been way too long since I've seen the Aldens."

Jessie was wondering about something. "Are you still working at the Penner place, Mrs. Dawson?" She was pouring lemonade into three tall glasses and one cracked pink cup. It was Benny's favorite cup. He had found it when they were living in the boxcar.

Mrs. Dawson brushed back a wisp of silver hair. "Oh, yes. I've been a housekeeper out there for years," she said, stirring cream into her tea. "When Nate Penner died, I wasn't sure if my services would be needed anymore. But after the accident ..." Her voice trailed away.

Henry lifted an eyebrow. "Accident? What happened?"

"Amanda tripped over a loose stone in the walkway," Mrs. Dawson told them. "I'm afraid she sprained her ankle."

"Who's Amanda?" Benny asked.

"Nate Penner's granddaughter," answered Mrs. Dawson. "Amanda inherited the house from her grandfather. She'd lived in Chicago but she moved back to Greenfield to live here after he died."

"Do you think Amanda will be okay?" Violet wondered.

"Oh, yes," Mrs. Dawson assured her. "But right now, she can only get around on crutches. I'll be staying on as housekeeper until she's better."

"What will you do then, Mrs. Dawson?" asked Jessie. "Will you look for another job in Greenfield?"

"That's a good question," said Mrs. Dawson. "I've always dreamed of opening my own bookstore. But ... I don't know if that will ever happen. It costs a lot of money to start a business."

Mrs. McGregor was quick to agree. "It's not easy, that's for sure."

"I've managed to save a bit of money, but not nearly enough. So I will definitely be looking for another housekeeping job," Mrs. Dawson said with a sigh. "Amanda only needs me until the end of the summer."

Mrs. McGregor said, "You can always put a notice up on the job board in the grocery store."

"Actually, I'm doing that very thing today," said Mrs. Dawson. "Not for me—for Amanda. She needs somebody to remove the stones from the walkway behind the house. She doesn't want anyone else to fall and get hurt."

"Maybe we could lend a hand," volunteered Henry.

"Of course," said Jessie.

Benny and Violet nodded in agreement.

"Well, that's very kind of you to offer," said Mrs. Dawson. "But ... just so you know, it's hard work."

Mrs. McGregor laughed. "If there's anything these children love, it's work."

The Aldens didn't mind at all. "We'd like to help," Violet said.

"We can come over first thing in the morning," said Henry.

Mrs. Dawson looked grateful. "Well, don't worry about packing any sandwiches," she said. "I'll make lunch for all of you and Amanda."

Mrs. McGregor poured her friend another cup of tea. "Speaking of Amanda," she said, "is she still interested in writing?"

The question seemed to catch Mrs. Dawson off guard. "What?"

"I remember her grandfather was always so proud of the awards she won at school," Mrs. McGregor said.

The Aldens were instantly curious. "Amanda won awards?" Jessie asked.

"She was a very talented writer," said Mrs. McGregor. Then, turning to her friend, she asked again, "Does Amanda still enjoy writing stories?"

As Mrs. Dawson reached for the cream, it slipped from her hand. "Oh, how clumsy of me!" She slapped a hand against her cheek.

"That's okay." Mrs. McGregor mopped up the cream with a napkin. "I'll get some more."

"No, no. I should be going anyway." Mrs. Dawson pushed back her chair. "I still have, um ... errands to run." After thanking Mrs. McGregor for the tea, she dashed away.

Jessie stared after her, puzzled. She had the strangest feeling Mrs. Dawson had spilled the cream on purpose. But why?


The Jigsaw Puzzle

"Sorry, Watch," Jessie said after breakfast the next morning. She bent down and gave their family pet a hug. "You can't go with us today. We'll be riding our bikes."

Benny scratched the little dog behind the ears. "We'll take you for a walk later," he promised. Watch looked up and barked.

A few minutes later, the Aldens were pedaling along the streets of Greenfield. After dropping their T-shirt contest entries into a mailbox, they turned onto a dirt road. It wasn't long before they were biking past rolling hills and woods.

"Isn't it a perfect day to be out in the country?" said Violet, who was riding right beside Jessie. She breathed in the smell of wildflowers as they arrived at a white farmhouse with a big porch.

"I hope they didn't forget we were coming," Benny said.

"Mrs. Dawson would never forget about us, Benny," Jessie assured him.

No sooner had she spoken than the screen door swung open. "Hi, kids!" Mrs. Dawson said with a warm smile. "Amanda can't wait to meet you."

The Aldens followed Mrs. Dawson into the living room. A young woman was resting on the couch, flipping through the pages of a magazine. Her bandaged foot was propped up on pillows, and her blond hair was pulled back into a ponytail. Her face broke into a big smile when she noticed the Aldens.

"It's very nice to meet you," Jessie told Amanda Penner.

"It's nice to meet you, too," Amanda said. "I can't tell you how grateful I am for your help."

"No problem," said Henry. "We like to help."

Benny was staring at the crutches leaning against the couch.

Amanda grinned. "The truth is, I found them a bit tricky at first, Benny," she said. "But I get around on those crutches now like a pro."

"Cool!" Benny's eyes became wide with interest.

Violet spoke up shyly. "We were sorry to hear about your accident, Amanda."

"It's not as bad as it looks, Violet. Besides, I have Mrs. Dawson to keep everything running smoothly around here."

Just then Amanda's housekeeper came back into the room. She was carrying a tray with five glasses of apple cider on it.

"Were your ears burning, Mrs. Dawson?" Amanda asked, a twinkle in her eye. "I was just talking about you."

"I hope you weren't too hard on me." Mrs. Dawson laughed as she passed around the drinks. "Actually, I've known Amanda since she was knee-high to a grasshopper. She stayed here every summer when she was growing up."

"I have good memories of those days," Amanda said, as Mrs. Dawson returned to the kitchen. "There's a spot in Fudge Hollow—at the back of the property—where a tree fell across the creek. My grandfather and I used to sit there and dangle our feet in the water." Amanda had a faraway look in her eyes. "That tree is over a hundred years old," she added. "As old as this house is now."

"Has this house always been in your family?" Jessie asked.

Amanda nodded. "Ever since 1904," she said. "Brandon Penner built it for his bride—Dora. As a matter of fact, we still have Dora's hope chest in the attic."

Benny wrinkled his forehead. "What's a hope chest?"

Amanda explained, "In the old days, young girls would make quilts and lace tablecloths and ... well, all sorts of things. They stored everything in a chest. They were hoping they'd have a home of their own one day."

"Oh, I get it," said Benny, catching on. "That's why they call it a hope chest."

"Exactly," said Amanda.

Henry finished his apple cider. "Well, we should get started on that walkway."

"That's true. It's supposed to be a real scorcher by mid-afternoon." Amanda leaned heavily on the crutches as she led the children out into the hallway. She paused for a moment by the grandfather clock and nodded towards a framed photograph on the wall. "That's Dora on her wedding day," she said.

"Brandon's bride?" Jessie took a step closer. The photograph showed a pretty girl—tall and slim—in a gown of white. She had a heart-shaped face, and was wearing an orange-blossom wreath in her fair hair.

"Oh!" Violet was peering over Benny's shoulder. "She looks so ... so ..."

"Young?" said Amanda, finishing the thought. "Yes, Dora was only sixteen when she became Brandon's bride. As a matter of fact, she was married on her birthday."

"Sixteen?" Henry was shocked.

"It's not as surprising as you might think, Henry," said Amanda. "People got married much younger in the old days."

Jessie noticed something written in white ink at the bottom of the photograph. She read the words aloud: "Pandora on her wedding day, February 29, 1904."

Benny looked confused. "Pandora?"

"That was her full name," Amanda explained. "But everybody called her Dora for short. That photograph is very special," she added. "It's the only place where Dora's name appears in full."

"I like Dora better," said Benny. "Don't you, Jessie?"

Jessie didn't answer. She was still staring at the writing on the photo. Something about it seemed odd to her. But there was no time to think about it. Amanda was heading along the hall again.

Outside, Benny was the first to spot the stone path winding through the flower garden. "Is that the walkway?" he asked.

"Yes, it is, Benny," Amanda said. "And you'll find everything you need in that shed." She nodded towards the far end of the lawn. "Can you see it over there?"

Shading their eyes from the sun, the children looked over to where an old shed peeked out from behind the lilac bushes. "Where should we put the stones?" Henry asked.

"Maybe you could pile them behind the shed for now," Amanda said. "By the way, we always keep a pitcher of cold lemonade in the refrigerator. Feel free to help yourselves when you need a break."

"Sounds good," said Jessie.

"And I'm expecting you to join me for lunch," Amanda added, as she walked away. "I won't take no for an answer!"

"Don't worry," Henry called out. "Benny never says no to food." Everyone laughed.

For the next few hours, the Aldens worked hard. Jessie pried the stones free from the dirt with a spade, while Henry loaded them into the wheelbarrow. Then Violet and Benny pushed the wheelbarrow back and forth between the flower garden and the weedy jungle behind the shed. When they were almost finished, Benny saw something strange.

"What is it?" Violet asked when she found Benny staring at one of the stones.

"Something's carved into this stone," Benny said.

Henry and Jessie hurried over, too. Sure enough, the letters G and S had been carved into the bottom.

"That's odd," said Violet.

Jessie turned over another stone. "There's part of a letter carved into this one, too," she told them. "Looks like the letter N."

The Aldens began checking the stones they'd piled up against the shed.

"Somebody carved letters into all of them," Henry said. "There are parts of words on some of them."

"Maybe it's a secret message," said Henry. He was half-joking.

"Of course!" Violet cried. "I bet if we put the stones together, like a puzzle, they'll spell something out." She turned to her older brother. "That is what you're thinking, isn't it, Henry?"

Henry held up a hand. "I was just trying to be funny."

But Violet was excited. "Let's spread the stones on the grass," she suggested. "Maybe we can make sense of it."

"I bet it is a secret message!" Benny said.

So the Aldens lined the stones up on the grass—in neat little rows. For the next hour, they moved the stones from one place to another until they all fit together.

Finally, Henry let out a low whistle. "Look!" he said. "Violet was right!"


The Game's in Play

The children stared down at the strange message carved into the stones.

"What does it say, Jessie?" Benny wanted to know. The youngest Alden was just learning to read. Jessie read the words aloud:

The rings of time
go round and round;
a hollow hides
what must be found.

"I wonder what it means," Violet said in a hushed voice.

"And who put it there," added Jessie. She tugged a small notebook and pencil from her back pocket and wrote down the riddle.

Finally, Benny spoke up. "One thing's for sure," he said. "It's a mystery."

Henry nodded. "You can say that again!"

"Violet had a feeling the letters spelled something out," Jessie was telling Amanda over lunch. "And she was right."

"Don't forget," Benny piped up, "I spotted the letters first."

"You sure did, Benny," said Jessie. "You have a way of seeing things other people don't."

The Aldens were sitting around the picnic table in the backyard with Amanda, eating sandwiches for lunch.

"Do you know how the riddle got there, Amanda?" Violet asked.

"I think you stumbled upon the spy game," Amanda said.

The Aldens turned to Amanda in surprise.

"Did you say"—Henry paused—"the spy game?"

Amanda nodded. "That's exactly what I said."

The Aldens began to speak at once.

"What kind of game is that?"

"Is there really a spy?"

"How do you play it?"

"Is the stone riddle part of the game?"

"Let me explain," Amanda said, laughing. "The spy game was my grandfather's invention. You see, he always had a special gift waiting for me every summer—only I had to find it first."

"You mean your grandfather hid it somewhere?" Benny asked.

"Yes, he did," Amanda replied. "And believe me, my grandfather was a real pro at making up codes and clues. Sometimes it took me all summer to track it down."

"That sounds like fun!" said Jessie.

"It sure was," said Amanda. "Of course, Grandfather always gave me a hint about the gift." She paused for a moment and smiled. "One summer, I tracked down a dollhouse," she went on. "The hint my grandfather gave me was: I spy with my little eye, something made of wood,"

"Oh!" cried Violet, who suddenly understood. "So that's why you called it the spy game."

Henry had a question. "But how can you be sure your grandfather carved the stone riddle?"

"Because of the note, Henry." Amanda reached into her pocket and pulled out a folded piece of paper. "After you showed me the riddle, I went into the house and found the message my grandfather left me in his will."

"What does it say?" Benny was so interested, he'd only eaten one bite of his sandwich.

Amanda unfolded the note. "Why don't I read it to you?"

The Aldens were all ears. They leaned closer to catch every word.

Amanda read the message aloud:

I spy with my little eye
something made of gold:
So follow the clues
both night and day;
leave no stone unturned,
the game's in play.


Excerpted from The Spy Game by GERTRUDE CHANDLER WARNER, Robert Papp. Copyright © 2009 Albert Whitman & Company. Excerpted by permission of ALBERT WHITMAN & Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Gertrude Chandler Warner (1890–1979) was an American author of children’s books, most notably the nineteen original titles in the Boxcar Children Mysteries series. Warner was raised in Putnam, Connecticut, across the street from a railroad station, which later inspired her to write about children living in a boxcar. In 1918, she began what would become a thirty-two-year career teaching first and third grade at the Israel Putnam School. She died in Putnam on August 30, 1979, when she was eighty-nine years old. But the Boxcar Children live on: To this day, talented authors contribute new stories to the series, which now includes over one hundred twenty books.

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The Spy Game (The Boxcar Children Series #118) 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I luv this book just like the rest you should read them too. They are really good.
CLI More than 1 year ago
I love reading them
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You know that " love is spelled LOVE NOT LUV IM THE BIGGEST FAN OF THE BOXCAR CHILDREN BOOK Warning i havent read it but from other of their book