The Boxcar Children have long been known for being creative and resourceful. This hardcover book is filled with fun how-to guides for everyday adventures. It includes tips and tricks for mystery solving (how to make invisible ink and create secret codes), travel (how to pack a suitcase; how to take great snapshots), and enjoying the great outdoors. Each of the four Boxcar Children has their own sectionpractical advice from Jessie, a “roughing it” guide from Henry, crafts and art projects from Violet, and recipes from Benny! A great gift for Boxcar fans.
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 its success, she went on to write eighteen more stories about the Alden Children.
Read an Excerpt
Who's leaving notes in code at Lily's house? Did Bryan find animal tracks ... or were those zombie footprints left in the mud? Mysteries are found in everyday adventures if you know where to look.
To help solve a mystery, form a hypothesis (an idea) to start you off on your investigation, and gather your clues. Look at all of the evidence (what proves something to be true), talk about what you've found with your family and friends, and make a solid guess as to what you think happened.
For example, I saw a large magpie, a type of bird, perched on top of the boxcar. The next day, Violet's favorite ring was missing from where she left it outside. After seeing a piece of metal glinting in the sunlight beneath a tree, she and I took a closer look. We knew that the birds love to steal shiny things, so our hypothesis was that the magpie took the ring. Our hypothesis was right—the ring was in the nest. Crafty birds!
What about that loud noise that you heard coming from the sky last night? Was it a plane? A distant clap of thunder? Or maybe a spaceship? It's time to break out your detective skills by asking the neighbors if they also heard the noise and if they saw anything such as lightning—or aliens. And don't forget to take pictures of what you find!
My siblings and I have discovered that things may not always be what they seem, but by using common sense, using what we have, and a little luck, we always get to the bottom of the mystery. Come to think of it, I think I know who took the last slice of apple pie. Benny!
When you stumble upon a mystery, you'll need to think fast. Be ready with your own detective kit and jump into action!
FOR THE KIT, YOU'LL NEED:
Notebook and pencil to record conversations (Be sure to note the time, the weather—rainy, sunny, snowy—the address or place where you are interviewing, and clues you come across.)
Tape recorder for interviews
Small bag of flour and a makeup brush to reveal fingerprints
Tape to lift the fingerprint
Blank index cards
Soft tape measure to measure foot prints
Tweezers to pick up evidence
Small sealable bags to hold evidence
Snacks and water
How to investigate a mystery
Many investigations start by discussing what people saw, heard, or noticed missing. The subject is the person you will be asking questions to and writing down his or her answers.
1. Interviewing the subject:
Write down all that they can remember. While taking notes in your notebook from your detective kit, have the voice recorder running in the background as they speak. Play the recording back later to catch anything you may have missed. If you're trying to find out more about a certain event, ask the subject about where they were, who they were with, and what time it happened.
2. Who stole the cookie from the cookie jar?
If you're trying to find a missing object, have the owner describe it, and ask where they think it may have gone. Sometimes your best clues come from the owner herself.
3. Sometimes you may find out who took a missing object by finding a fingerprint on a window or a dusty tabletop.
To take a fingerprint: Using a makeup brush, press the bristles into a tiny bit of flour. Tap some flour onto where you suspect a fingerprint might be, such as on a glass, doorknob, or jewelry box, and gently brush it away with the makeup brush. The flour may reveal a fingerprint that doesn't match anyone in the house! Press the tape onto the fingerprint and lift it off the surface very carefully. This can be tricky so use a steady hand to lift the print! Stick the tape onto an index card, and write down where you took the print and the date. Keep the evidence in one of your sealable bags to keep it safe.
4. Was it a zombie or your neighbor's dog looking for a treat?
Check for footprints outside: You may be able to see footprints in soft soil or snow. Look around the outside of the house to see if there are any strange shoe prints. If there are, use a soft tape measure to see how large the shoe is and check to see if they match the shoes of anyone involved in the mystery.
5. Sometimes a stray hair can unlock the mystery!
Tiny clues: Use tweezers to pick up small clues such as hair, fingernail clippings, or broken jewelry, and place the objects into small sealable bags for safekeeping. Don't forget to label the bags with the date and where you found the clues.
6. It's all in how you look at it.
Go back and visit the site of the mystery during different times of the day. You may see something that was hidden in the shadows earlier or find someone new to talk to about the riddle.
Going Incognito: Disguises
Every good detective has a bag of disguises to change into just in case they've been discovered and need a quick getaway. Keep these items handy and you'll fool even the most determined ne'er-do-wells.
Different colored shirt from the one you're wearing or a light jacket
HOW TO MAKE YOUR OWN MUSTACHE
I mustache you a question: what is the quickest way for a detective to blend into the crowd without being noticed? By changing their appearance with a snappy mustache! Try curling the ends of a brown, red, or black pipe cleaner, and securing to your upper lip with a piece of tape. Or draw a bushy mustache onto clear tape and stick it under your nose. Cut a mustache shape out of sticky felt, then peel the paper backing off the felt and apply above your lip for another sly look. For a fluffier mustache, cut the shape out of fake fur, then sew elastic or a ribbon to both ends and wear securely around your head.
Mustaches may be dashing with wiggly ends or they can be bushy and mysterious. It's better to have a few different styles to choose from in your kit. In a pinch, extra mustaches may be used as eyebrows, but choose wisely; the curly ones are a dead giveaway and someone may think you have a caterpillar growing out of your face.
Crack the Code
Mysterious notes are appearing and we're ready to solve the mystery. Can you help?
Writing codes, called cryptography, has been used for a very long time to send secret messages. Some messages are used to pass secrets from one person to another, while other codes are games. Codes may be made up of any symbols such as letters, numbers, or even squiggles. Putting them together forms a code and in order to read it, the other person needs a key to figure it out! A key consists of a graph that shows what each symbol represents.
REVERSE ALPHABET CODE
The alphabet code is written with letters in alphabetic order on one line, and the alphabet backward on the next line, so each letter's opposite is directly below it.
Draw two grids: one like a tic-tac-toe board and the other like a big X. Each letter is represented by the lines of the "pen" that it is in.
When you want to use the second letter in the box like a B, D, or L, place a small dot next to the lines.
Another great code is to use a grid. It may take a little time to write out, but once you get the hang of it, cracking codes is a snap.
Make a grid of five spaces down and five spaces across. Write the letters A, B, C, D, and E on the top of the grid and number the left column boxes 1 through 5. Starting with the letter F, write the letters in the remaining spaces left to right. To send a message to your friend, send them a code that matches the box like: 1B, 1E, 3D, 3D, 5E. To decipher the code, they simply need to match the boxes to your coded message.
This is a bit trickier than the rest, but writing in reverse is a great way to confuse those with prying eyes. The artist Leonardo da Vinci used mirror writing to write some of his private notes. To see the message, others had to use a reflective surface like a mirror to read them.
To make your own mirror message, write your note on a piece of paper as usual. Then stand a hand mirror on its edge next to the paper so it reflects the backward writing. On another piece of paper, write down what you see in the mirror. Your friend will need to use a mirror to see what you've written! Some letters, like O or T look the same but others look crazy!
We found this note hidden in a secret room. What does it say? Use one of the keys to help us figure it out!
It looks like we have a mystery on our hands!
WHAT WAS THAT FLASHING LIGHT SAYING?
Morse code is a way to communicate using a series of dots and dashes to represent letters of the alphabet. We think it's a fun way for us to communicate at night without making a sound. By using our flashlights, I can tell Benny it's time for a late night snack or that someone is coming! A short burst of light is a dot, and a long flash is a dash. Pause for the count of three between letters, and pause for a count of five before making a new word so you don't get mixed up.
Make a copy of the code below for your friends and family so they can respond.
When it's daylight, try to whistle the code instead of using a flashlight or tap out the code with your fingers when your friend is nearby. What does this secret message say?
How to Make Invisible Ink
Some things are for your best friend's eyes only! To make invisible ink, you will need:
Tools to write with such as a cotton swab, paintbrush, or toothpick
Heat source such as a lightbulb or a sunny window
Baking soda and water for Method 1
The juice of a lemon for Method 2
1. Mix equal parts baking soda and water together in a bowl.
2. Using the baking soda mixture as your "ink," write your message onto the paper with your chosen detective writing tool.
3. Wait for the paper to dry.
4. Deliver to your best friend.
5. Tell him that to see the secret message, he'll need to hold the paper over a warm lightbulb, but not to let the paper touch the bulb. The message will appear when the paper is warm.
1. With help from an adult, cut a lemon in half and squeeze the juice into a bowl
2. Using the lemon juice as your "ink," use your chosen writing tool to make a cool design or short message on the paper.
3. Wait for the paper to dry.
4. Deliver to your partner.
5. Ask her to tape the paper onto a sunny window until the message appears in brown.
Now all you have to do is wait for them to write you back with their own messages!
Escape and Decoder Scarves
Violet and I love dressing up, and scarves are the perfect detective accessories. Women working as spies during World War II got double duty out of the fashionable fabric. The scarves of course protected their hair from the wind and rain. But printed on the reverse side of the fabric was an escape route of nearby towns, roads, and hideouts in case they needed to make a quick exit.
Sometimes, they would write down a decoder key onto the scarf. By tying it around their hair or neck, these spies held the answer to the mystery and no one was the wiser!
Whistles and Hand Signals
Was that a sparrow outside your window or a secret message between two master detectives? When you're out in the field and need to quickly communicate with your team fast, a whistle can alert them to be ready to roll.
One long, low whistle means to be quiet and listen for the next signal.
A few long, slow whistles means to get farther away or to scatter and not be found.
A few short, quick blasts mean to come back together as a group or to join you.
A long whistle followed by a short one, then another long and another short means to look out!
If you can see your partner but are unable to make a sound, hand signals work just as well.
Swinging your arm from your back to front means to move in or get closer to the person or persons you are following.
Circling your arm around your head tells your team to retreat and head back to base.
To stop the team, raise your arm above your head and point up to the sky.
The handshake started as a gesture of peace, to show that neither person was going to poke the other with a stick if he got too close. It is now used as a way to say hello, to congratulate someone on a job well done, and to seal a deal. Handshakes are also used to show that a person is part of a secret club. Each wiggle of a finger may be part of a code!
Make up a secret handshake with your friends and family. Get creative by using your whole body with elbow bumps, fish faces, and snazzy dance moves as you learn the code together. Will a wink mean it's time for lunch? Or can a thumb dance tell you to meet your friend after school by the elm tree? Keep it simple at first, and then move to fancier footwork as you learn more steps.
SEVEN BOXCAR CHILDREN MYSTERIES ABOUT THE GREAT OUTDOORS!
#3, Yellow House Mystery
#9, Mountain-Top Mystery
#27, The Camp-Out Mystery
#40, The Canoe Trip Mystery
#61, The Growling Bear Mystery
#76, The Great Bicycle Race Mystery
#86, The Mystery on Blizzard Mountain
Before we met our grandfather, we started our adventures by taking shelter in a boxcar. We loved being in the wilderness, because there were so many things to do. Now that Grandfather has moved the boxcar to our backyard, we're still able to visit and play in our snug little hideaway. Here are some of the things we learned while exploring outdoors.
When not in the boxcar, we love sleeping in a roomy tent. We like to put the tent up as a team since it can be difficult to manage poles by ourselves. So grab a brother and a sister or a few friends and get started!
UNPACKING THE TENT
Before setting up the tent, make sure you have all of the equipment needed. Most tents will have the following:
YOU MAY ALSO NEED
Hammer—or use a rock or other heavy item if you don't have a hammer
PICKING A GREAT CAMPSITE
Look for a flat and dry area. Keep away from anywhere that may flood if it starts raining. You don't want to wake up in a puddle! Clear the space of all fallen branches, twigs, and rocks since those can be very uncomfortable to sleep on.
Where's the best place to look? Mountaintops can be quite windy while valleys may gather dew in the early morning and you may wake up damp and groggy. Try to find a campsite that is in between. If you're in the backyard, find a nice sunny spot.
SETTING UP THE TENT
If you brought a tarp, lay that down first. This helps to protect your tent from tree roots poking up from the ground or any moisture from dew. Place the corners of your inner tent on top of the tarp and spread them out evenly. If the tarp is too big, tuck it under the sides of the tent. Put pegs in the loops found on the corners of your tent and hammer them into the ground securely starting with opposite corners such as A then D, then C and B:
If there are more than four pegs, hammer those into the ground next.
With help from a friend, put the poles together. Some may be long and heavy, while others click together easily, depending on the tent. Run the poles through the guides on the outside of the tent and watch it begin to take shape!
The outer tent is used in case of rainfall and as an added layer of privacy. On sunny days, you may choose to leave the outer tent off and unzip the tent window flaps for a nice breeze through the screens. To use the outer tent, ask an adult to toss it over the top so you can secure the strings or poles to the ground, or clip it to the inner tent poles.
PUTTING THE TENT AWAY
After your campout, it's important to put the tent back properly.
1. First, remove everything from the tent.
2. Using a small broom, sweep out all dirt, leaves, and branches that your shoes may have tracked in.
3. Pull the pegs out of the ground and clean them off before storing them. It helps to have the pegs in their own zippered bag to find them easily next time.
4. Remove the poles and break them down.
5. Lay the tent out flat and fold one side to the other like you're folding a giant towel into sections. Repeat folding until it is small enough to place into its bag.
6. Don't forget to include the pegs and poles into the carrier bag with the tent!
7. Fold the tarp.
8. Before you leave your campsite, take another look around to make sure you left the area cleaner than how you found it. No litter!
Excerpted from "The Boxcar Children Guide to Adventure"
Copyright © 2014 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.
Table of Contents
Boxcar Tool Kit,
Chapter One: Super Sleuths,
Chapter Two: Henry's Outdoor Adventures,
Chapter Three: Road Trips!,
Chapter Four: The Haunted Boxcar,
Chapter Five: Benny's Belly,
Chapter Six: Violet's Workbag,
Chapter Seven: A Friend in Need,
Chapter Eight: Unplugged Games,