Benny and his friend Mike are in trouble when they are curious about a uranium mine.
About the Author
Gertrude Chandler Warner was born in 1890 in Putnam, Connecticut, where she taught school and wrote The Boxcar Children because she had often imagined how delightful it would be to live in a caboose or freight car. Encouraged by the book's success, she went on to write eighteen more stories about the Alden children.
Read an Excerpt
The four Alden children could hardly wait to get back to Mystery Ranch. Henry, Jessie, Violet and Benny had planned for weeks what they would do.
"We'll go on that dear old train!" said Violet. "Remember Mr. Carter who helped us carry our bags, Jessie?"
"I'll carry the bags!" shouted Benny. "Mr. Carter won't be on the train this time."
"Maybe I'll carry some of the bags, old boy," said Henry. "But you know we won't get off at Centerville."
Jessie nodded at her older brother. "Yes, we will get off at Yellow Sands now. I think that is a beautiful name. Our uranium fields looked just like yellow sand."
Grandfather said, "Sam will meet you. Maybe Sam will carry the bags."
The children laughed. "Fighting over old bags," said Benny.
"Too bad Watch has to ride in the baggage car," said Henry. "But they don't allow dogs anywhere else on the train."
"I'll ride in the baggage car, too," said Benny. "Then he won't mind."
Mr. Alden laughed. He said, "I'm afraid you can't do that. But you can go and see him once in a while. Then he will know you are near by."
At last the day came when they were off to Mystery Ranch where Aunt Jane lived.
Henry, Jessie, Violet and Benny loved Aunt Jane and they were to visit her for the summer vacation.
Once she had been a very cross old woman. But now she was a very pleasant lady.
When they got off the train at Yellow Sands, they all looked for the old black horse. But instead they saw Sam and Maggie with a station wagon. Sam took care of the ranch, and Maggie took care of Aunt Jane.
"Hello, Sam!" cried Benny. "Where's Snowball?"
"Snowball's all right," said Sam smiling. "I always thought that was a funny name for a black horse."
"I named him," said Benny. "I thought it was a funny name, too. Where is he?"
"He is taking it easy these days," said Maggie. "He stays out in the field all the time eating grass. This car goes faster."
"You mean you can drive it, Maggie?" asked Jessie.
"Yes," said Maggie smiling. "Sam says I drive all right."
"Let's go," said Sam. "Now that Watch is out of the baggage car, we are ready."
Everyone carried a bag. In no time they were going through the new gate to Aunt Jane's house. At the top of the gate were big letters saying, Mystery Ranch.
How glad Aunt Jane was to see them! Watch did not care much for Aunt Jane's new dog, Lady. But when lunch was ready, Watch lay down at Jessie's foot, and Lady lay down at Aunt Jane's foot. So all was well.
"Oh, this place has changed in just this one year," Aunt Jane said. "You would never know it. There is one long street down the middle of my old hay field."
"Is it a real street?" asked Benny.
"Oh, my, yes! There are lots of stores and a church, and a school and a High School."
"I can't imagine it," said Henry. "We shall have to go and see it soon."
"Go any time you like," said Aunt Jane. "I know you are just dying to see that street."
"We want to see you, too, Aunt Jane," said Violet.
"Well, you've seen me now," said Aunt Jane. "Lunch is over. So you go along and enjoy yourselves."
"Be back for supper," said Maggie. "We are going to have a fine supper."
"Oh, we will get back long before supper," said Jessie. "We just want to see what the old ranch looks like."
An Old Friend
The ranch belonged to the four Alden children. So, of course, they wanted to see how it had changed since last summer when uranium had been found.
Benny said, "I suppose Grandfather had to get hundreds of miners to work in the uranium mine. And the miners have lots of children, and they must have clothes and something to eat, and a school and a church. So that's how the town grew."
"Right!" said Henry with a smile. "You have it all worked out." The four children went out the back door.
"Yes, Watch, you can come," said Henry to the dog. "Can Lady come too, Aunt Jane?"
"No," said Aunt Jane. "Lady always stays with me."
Watch was delighted to go with the four children, so he barked and barked. He ran along barking. On they went, past the hen houses. These were all mended and painted. They went through a field to the street. It was very strange to see a city street in the middle of the old field.
"There's a five and ten," said Benny, "and a big super-market! We won't need to hoe any vegetables if we don't want to."
"What a beautiful dress shop!" said Jessie. Then she almost bumped into a boy about Benny's age. He was walking with his hands in his pockets and he was whistling.
When he saw the children he stopped and stared at them. Then he said, "Hi, Ben! Don't you know me?"
Benny took one look. "Mike! Mike Wood!" he yelled. "It's Mike, Henry! Remember he came to the picnic on Surprise Island?"
"Well, I'd never forget that," said Henry. "It is Mike, sure enough! You came over to our picnic and your dog had a race with Watch."
"Yep," said Mike. "That was my dog Spotty. He's out with my brother Pat now. I remember how he beat your dog in the race."
"Oh, no!" cried Benny. "He never did! Watch was the one that beat Spotty! Don't you remember?"
"No, I don't," said Mike. "I know Spot beat Watch."
"He didn't either!" shouted Benny. "Spot was a stranger. He didn't even know which way to run!"
"Stop, you boys," cried Henry. "Don't fight the minute you meet."
"Well, Mike started it," shouted Benny.
"I did not! You started it," shouted Mike.
"Boys!" said Henry. "Stop this minute. Aren't you friends?"
"We're friends," said Benny, "unless Mike tells lies about Watch. Watch won that race and I won't give in for anybody."
"Well," said Mike, "maybe he did. But it wasn't a fair race, because Spotty didn't even know the way."
"O.K." said Benny. "That's all I care. If you say Spotty didn't beat."
"Well, maybe he didn't beat," said Mike, "but how could he beat when he didn't know where to run?"
"Well, he couldn't," said Benny. "That's what I said. He couldn't and he didn't. I never said it was a fair race."
"Mike," said Jessie pleasantly, "how did you happen to come out here? You're so far from where we saw you last."
"I know," said Mike. "But we like it here. My Uncle Bob invited us to live here when my father died. Uncle Bob said he could give Pat a job. Remember Pat? My big brother?"
"Oh, yes," said Henry. "He was the one who almost got drowned at the picnic."
"Well, Pat works at the mine for my Uncle Bob. Not in the mine, but outside. I do all sorts of work for the mine, too. We all work. Mother washes the miners' clothes."
"Where's your house?" asked Henry.
"Over there," said Mike, pointing. "That pink one. The houses are all alike, only different colors. Each house has a yard around it, but the grass is dry and brown. My house has an electric stove and a washing machine. It's different from our old house back home. Come and see my mother."
"All right," said Henry. "We'd like to."
"Pat isn't home, but my mother is," said Mike. "She is making a pie, maybe, and we could have some to eat."
They reached the door of the pink house. "Ma, look who's here!" said Mike.
Mrs. Wood was indeed making pies. She was taking the third pie out of the oven. When she looked up and saw Benny, she laughed out loud.
"Hello, Benny Alden!" she cried.
"You have never seen the rest of us," said Jessie, laughing. "But you have seen plenty of Benny, when he went to school with Mike back in the East."
"I've heard lots about you," said Mrs. Wood. "Benny is a great talker. He's a fine boy. It does Mike good to play with him."
"It does Ben good to play with me," said Mike loudly.
"Yes, I think it does," agreed Henry.
Mike looked up in surprise. He did not know what to say. He thought Henry would not agree with him. "Ma makes pies for the neighbors," he said.
"And you are surely neighbors," said Mrs. Wood at once. "So take your choice. I have cherry, apple, and blueberry pie. All hot." She began cutting the three pies. The smell was delicious and the pie crusts were brown and flaky.
"I didn't really have much lunch," said Benny.
"Pull up your chairs around that table," said Mrs. Wood. "And Mike, you get a bit of cheese out of the refrigerator."
"Where's Pat?" asked Mike, getting the cheese.
"Gone to the bank. It's pay day. He puts Uncle Bob's money in the bank every week. You go get him, Mike, and tell him to come home and see the company."
Mike ran off down the street. Mrs. Wood watched him with a smile.
"He's not a bad boy, is Mike," she said. "He's just a big talker."
"We know that," said Jessie, smiling too.
"He'd do anything for his friends," said his mother. "He helps the men at the mine a lot, even if he fights, too. They joke with him and argue with him, but they like him."
Henry said, "This is the best apple pie I ever ate."
"I agree," said Jessie. "The cherry must be even better than the apple."
Violet laughed softly. "I was going to say the same thing about this blueberry."
"I'm glad," said Mrs. Wood very quietly. "I love to bake pies the best of anything. I wish I had time."
"Haven't you time?" asked Jessie, puzzled.
"No, dear," said Mrs. Wood. Her voice sounded sad. "I wash all day to earn money to help keep us. I'm lucky to have a washing machine. Here's Pat now."
When Pat came in, he said at once, "Hello, Ben! You used to come down to our house and play with Mike."
"This is Jessie," said his mother. "This is Violet, and this is Henry."
"Oh, I know them all," said Pat. "They saved my life on that picnic."
"Our cousin Joe did that," said Henry. "He is a fine swimmer."
Then Mike said, "When I met Pat, he was just coming out of the bank."
"It seems too funny to have a bank here," said Jessie. "This whole place used to be great fields of long grass."
"We have almost everything," said Pat. "We have a newspaper every day. The newspaper office is right by the bank."
"Oh, yes," cried Benny. "I saw the paper up at Aunt Jane's. The Daily News. It had a big picture of the uranium mine buildings on the front page."
"Yes, the mine is almost always on the front page," said Mike. "Here it is. We saved this one, because Pat is in the picture. See, right there? That's Pat. Standing by the short man. Gosh, that's funny. I've seen that man before some place. He don't live here."
"Doesn't," said Pat.
"Well, doesn't, then," said Mike. "You say Don't to me often enough."
"That's very different, Mike," said Pat.
"Well, it don't sound any different to me," said Mike.
Jessie laughed. "Mike makes me think of Benny, sometimes," she said. "They both love to argue."
"I'm not arguing," said Mike. "I'm thinking. That short man in the picture don't — doesn't — live around here. He's a stranger. But I know I've seen him before."
Pat looked at the picture. "I don't remember him at all," he said to his younger brother. "I didn't even know when they took the picture."
Mike was very quiet for a while. He kept looking at the picture.
"We must go," said Jessie. "We want to go into every store on the street and see all the sights."
"I'll go with you," said Mike. "I can show you everything. I've been here two months."
It was true. Mike did know everything. He showed them the door of the super-market which opened all by itself. He showed them a garage where new cars were for sale. Jessie bought five big straw hats in one store. The sun was very hot, so they all put on the hats. Everyone in the stores seemed to know who the children were. Aunt Jane had put their pictures in the paper many times since they owned the ranch where uranium had been found.
At last Jessie said, "Come on, let's go home. Maggie said she had a fine supper."
"Thank you, Mike, for showing us," said Violet.
"See you tomorrow, Mike," said Benny.
"Yep," said Mike. He went off whistling. He didn't know then that tomorrow would be so exciting.
The children slept soundly. They all woke up once to hear a loud, strange bell ringing. But they thought it was midnight, so they all went to sleep again. When they came down in the morning, Sam and Maggie were talking about a fire.
"What fire?" asked Henry.
"Didn't you hear the firebells ringing and ringing in the night?" asked Sam. "Here comes the paper boy. The news will be in the paper."
Sam took the paper. It was full of pictures. Benny looked over his shoulder. "It's Mike's house!" yelled Benny at the top of his voice.
"The paper says that it was the Wood's house that had burned to the ground."
"Let me see the paper, Benny," Jessie cried. "I can read faster."
"I can read fast enough," said Benny excitedly. "See that picture? It's Mike all right."
"I'm afraid it is," said Jessie, trying to read. "That lovely new, pink house, and the washing machine and electric stove!"
"No lives were lost," read Benny. "Not even the dog. Their big dog, Spotty, who slept in the cellar barked and gave the alarm. The fire had started in the cellar, and by the time the fire engine came, the whole house was burning. The fire seemed to start on all four sides of the house.
"Nothing was saved except clothing and bedding. When Mrs. Wood saw that the house could not be saved, she put some sheets on the floor, threw all the clothes from bureau drawers and closets on the sheets, tied them up, and threw them out of the window."
"Well, wasn't that smart?" said Jessie. "That costs the most of anything, doesn't it, Aunt Jane? The family clothes and bedding?" "Yes, my dear," replied her aunt. "I wonder what the Wood family will do now."
"I have to go right down there," said Benny. "I have to see Mike."
"Wait a minute, Benny," said Aunt Jane. "You must eat your breakfast, first. When you get down there, you won't come back for a long time. I know you!"
Benny knew that this was true, so he sat down and tried to eat. They all tried to eat, but everyone was thinking about the fire.
"Mike could come here for a few days," said Aunt Jane, "if he has no other place to go."
"Oh, Aunt Jane, thank you!" said Jessie. "You are very kind. But I don't think you want Mike. He would upset everything."
"I don't mind being upset," said Aunt Jane. "Benny and Mike would be something amusing to watch."
"You can say that again!" said Henry, laughing.
"I ate an egg," said Benny. "Can I go now?"
"Yes, go along. I know you can hardly wait to get down to the fire," said Aunt Jane.
The children ran all the way. They soon saw a big crowd of people who had come to see the fire. The little pink house was gone. Smoke was still rising from the burned wood, and it was still very hot.
"Hi, Ben!" called a voice. It was Mike. He came running over to Benny. He cried, "That was our house that burned, Ben. We all got out, and it was Spotty saved us."
"What are you going to do, Mike?" asked Henry. "Where is your mother?"
"She's right over there," said Mike pointing. "She and my brother Pat can sleep next door in the blue house, but I am going to stay with Mr. Carter."
"Mr. Carter!" cried Jessie. "What Mr. Carter? Do you mean Mr. John Carter?"
"I guess so," said Mike. "That's his name anyway. Do you know him? He's nice and very friendly."
"He works for Grandfather," said Jessie. "We met him last summer, but we didn't know he was still here. Where does he live?"
"In the green house right near the mine. He has lots of rooms he don't use."
"Doesn't" said Benny.
"Now don't you go teaching me, Ben!" said Mike.
"Where is Mr. Carter, now?" asked Violet just in time to stop a fight.
"Right over beside my mother," said Mike. "Come on, they are looking at us."
"Well, well, Mr. Carter!" cried Henry. "We are so glad to see you again. You always seem to pop up when there is trouble."
"I try to," said John Carter with a twinkle in his eye. "Hello, Jessie! And Violet. Benny is still his same old self."
"What will happen to Mike's family?" asked Henry.
"All these houses belong to the Uranium Company. So when the place cools off, the pink house will be built again," replied the man.
"How about the things inside? The washing machine?" asked Jessie.
"I don't know, but insurance will take care of some things later."
"Aunt Jane said Mike could come up to our house," said Violet.
"Oh, did she indeed!" said Mr. Carter, laughing. "You'll have a lively time! Don't you want me, too?"
"You would be a big help," said Jessie, smiling.
"You can have a whole room, Mike, if you come to Aunt Jane's," said Benny. "You'd better ask your mother if you can come."
"Yes, I'm willing, and thankful, too," said Mrs. Wood. "But tell Miss Alden to send Mike back if he gets too much for her."
Then Benny asked suddenly, "Mike! Have you had anything to eat?"
"No!" shouted Mike. "It all burned up. I didn't have any milk, or any oatmeal, or any eggs —"
"Come on, Mike!" shouted Benny. "I could eat another egg myself. Let's all go to the restaurant!"
Mr. Carter looked at Jessie and laughed. He said, "I wonder what's the matter with me? I never even thought of breakfast! And Mrs. Wood, you must be starved. We'll all go to the restaurant and have breakfast."
"We follow Benny as usual," said Mrs. Wood smiling. "He has the ideas."
Excerpted from "The Boxcar Children Mike's Mystery"
Copyright © 1988 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.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
It is so good i like it!!!!!!!
I liked reading this book very much. It was interesting & had good characters. You should try this book.
Go boxcar children
It looks good to me
ISBN 0807551414 - The Boxcar Children series became a quick favorite for me when I discovered them - decades after their first publication! The language is a bit stilted, I assume that's partially because the books were written in the 1950s and 1960s and people simply spoke more correctly. The children return to the ranch they own to visit Aunt Jane and see all the changes that have taken place in the past year. The first person they run into is Mike Wood, a boy they met on Surprise Island. Benny and Mike immediately take to bickering with one another again, but they're all on the same side when Mike's house is burned to the ground. It appears to be arson and a rumor starts that Mike was the cause of the fire, but the children know better - and they want to catch the man who did it before he causes even more destruction. It's nice to see that the author has connected two previous books (Surprise Island (Boxcar Children) and Mystery Ranch (Boxcar Children)) to this one, for the continuity and because kids will enjoy recognizing characters beyond the Alden children. Illustrations by Dirk Gringhuis are nice, not spectacular. For funny, and one thing kids might miss, there's some astonishment that the kids are being picked up at the train station by Maggie, driving a car, as if cars - and women driving them! - are very unusual. The copyright is 1960, so they probably were less common, but it's still amusing. Mike's Mystery shares a message about helping others, as well as being fun entertainment. RL3, ages 7-12. - AnnaLovesBooks
This book is soooooooo alsome !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!#!!"!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I recomend this book to beginig readers
Dont read it!!!""" Its stupid and borin
I think that this book is not good because Mike took the mystery away from The Boxcar Children. Don't read this book!!!!!!! You won't like it at all!!!!! It was REALY boring and dumb.