About the Author
Gertrude Chandler Warner grew up in Putnam, Connecticut. She wrote The Boxcar Children because she had always dreamed about what it would be like to live in a caboose or a freight car—just as the Aldens do. When readers asked for more adventures, Warner wrote more books—a total of nineteen in all. After her death, other authors have continued to write stories about Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny Alden, and today the Boxcar Children series has more than one hundred books. Anthony VanArsdale has worked as a professional illustrator since 2004, combining traditional and digital media to create illustrations with a "stylized realism." Among his favorite subjects to paint are animals, people, and illustrations that reflect the natural setting of his home in south Alabama.
Read an Excerpt
The Coming Storm
The Aldens stood on the boardwalk and looked out over the harbor. Grandfather had brought the children to Port Elizabeth for the annual tall ships festival. But now the ships were sailing away.
Six-year-old Benny swung underneath the wooden railing at the edge of the marina. "Look at all the sails on that one!" he said. "Ten sails. No, eleven. Wait, twelve!"
At first, he had been sad the festival was ending early. But seeing the big boats in action was exciting. Colorful sails billowed on tall wooden masts. And the old-fashioned ships crashed through the waves.
In the marina, waves lapped onto the docks. With the tall ships gone, most of the docks were empty. On the ones that weren't, people scrambled about, getting ready to move newer, smaller boats.
Henry leaned his elbows on the railing next to Benny. Unlike his brother, Henry wasn't watching the ships. He was looking at the dark clouds chasing them away. At fourteen, Henry was the oldest of the Alden children, and he liked to pay attention to the weather. "The storm is coming in fast," he said. "I hope everyone gets to safety."
"The real storm isn't supposed to hit until later tonight," said Grandfather. "The ships will have plenty of time to find shelter up the coast."
"I'm glad we have people to forecast the weather," ten-year-old Violet said. "Imagine if we didn't have any warning before the storm."
Grandfather's friend Marie Freeman spoke up. "There are ships at the bottom of this harbor from the days when the sailors didn't get enough warning before storms hit." Ms. Freeman was the Aldens' host for the festival. She had lived in Port Elizabeth all her life. She loved to study old things.
"Even today, weather can be hard to predict," said Grandfather. "But it seems pretty likely that this storm will reach us before it dies out. I think the folks who run the festival made the right decision."
Benny was still more interested in the ships than the storm. As the children started walking toward the exit of the marina, he asked, "How do they know where to go? Once they get away from shore, all there is is waves! They don't even have street signs to follow! Don't they get lost?"
Ms. Freeman smiled. "I have a feeling those big, old ships might have some new technology onboard to tell them where they are. But sailors still have to know how to travel the old-fashioned way, just in case. What would they do if their computers failed?"
Benny stopped suddenly. "In the middle of the ocean? They'd never get home!"
"They would if they had the old tools and knew how to use them," Henry said. "We should try using a compass and map to find our way around."
"That sounds fun," Jessie said.
The Aldens came to the end of the marina. Violet noticed a line of smaller, newer-looking boats. Instead of sailing the boats away, people were loading them onto big trailers. On the dock next to the boats was a thin man in an orange raincoat. Around him were half a dozen people. They looked to be arguing with him.
"That's Hector Valencia," said Ms. Freeman. "He owns this marina. Poor guy. Ending the festival early can't be good for his business."
"Those people don't look happy with him," said Henry.
"I suppose everyone is trying to get their boats out of the water before the storm rolls in," said Grandfather. "But it looks like there's some sort of holdup."
"Looks like the boats are being inspected," Ms. Freeman said. "Unfortunately, there are rumors of smugglers here in Port Elizabeth."
Benny's eyes got big. "Smugglers? You mean like pirates?"
Ms. Freeman chuckled. "Not exactly. Smugglers are people who bring things in or out of the country illegally."
"What happens if they get caught?" Violet asked.
"It depends," said Ms. Freeman. "Say the smugglers brought in something that was legal to own, like jewels, but they snuck it in without paying taxes. They'd probably get a fine."
"That seems silly," said Jessie. "Why risk a fine when you could be honest and not get in trouble?"
Ms. Freeman smiled. "That is a very good question. Sadly, not everyone is as sensible as you are. Most people are honest though. They just want to get their boats to safety."
Henry pointed at a large speedboat out in the bay. "I wonder whose boat that is," he said. The boat was anchored, and it didn't look like there was anyone aboard.
"I hope the owner hasn't forgotten about it," said Jessie. "If they don't move it and the storm hits, who knows what could happen to it?"
The empty boat bobbing on the dark water gave Benny a bad feeling. It reminded him of spooky stories he'd heard about ghost ships and pirates. He was happy when Ms. Freeman changed the subject.
"I'd like to check in on my shop before the storm hits," Ms. Freeman said. "Would you all mind if we stopped by?"
The Aldens agreed, and they followed Ms. Freeman into town. Along Main Street, they passed by empty gift shops and restaurants. Many were boarded up to protect against the coming storm.
The Happy Bear Ice-Cream Shop was just off Main Street. Outside the shop there was a tall statue of a bear standing up on its back legs. The bear was wearing blue overalls and holding an ice-cream cone piled high with scoops.
"You didn't tell us you had an ice-cream shop!" said Benny.
"I love your statue," said Violet. "It goes perfectly with the name of your shop."
"Why, thank you," said Ms. Freeman. "Bears became the symbol for our town a few years ago, and this fellow was made for my shop. I liked him so much, I changed the shop's name to match."
"So it's a town mascot?" Jessie asked.
"That's right," Ms. Freeman said. "The tourists like taking pictures with all the different bear statues around town."
A man in front of the shop next door gave a snort. "Maybe the storm will do everyone a favor and blow that one away."
"Why do you say that?" Henry asked.
The man stopped hammering and wiped his brow. He spoke with a strong southern accent. "I believe this should be a high-class town with high-class shops. People see that silly bear and the silly name and think they can bring their drippity ice cream anyplace." He frowned at the children. "Kids come into my shop and let it drip all over. Then they touch things with their sticky hands."
The man turned back to his work. "At least my shop will be protected from this coming storm," he said.
Once the Aldens were in the ice-cream shop, Violet whispered, "That man didn't seem very nice."
Ms. Freeman sighed. "That is George Williams. He's not really so bad. He just moved here from Georgia. He doesn't understand Port Elizabeth yet. If he had it his way, there'd only be fancy gift shops like his."
"Why does he want you to change your shop's name?" asked Jessie.
"Yeah, I like The Happy Bear," said Benny. "It's ... happy!"
Ms. Freeman gave a small smile. "My shop used to be called Sailor's Delight Sweets and Treats. It went along with the name of the shop next door, The Stylish Sailor Boutique. But a couple years ago, I decided to just sell ice cream and changed the name. He's always trying to get me to go back to selling fancy candies and knickknacks."
"Well, I think ice cream is the perfect thing to sell," said Benny. "Shoppers need energy. They can take a break with ice cream and have more energy to shop."
"I'll bet you're right," Ms. Freeman said. "How about some energy for you kids? Give your orders to Savannah."
The young woman behind the counter had not looked up from her cell phone since the Aldens entered the shop.
Ms. Freeman sighed. "Savannah!" The young woman jumped and looked up. She had long, brown hair and wore a purple shirt.
"Take the Aldens' orders, please," Ms. Freeman said. "I'm going to check on the generator."
As the woman rang them up, Violet said, "I like your shirt. Purple is my favorite color. Your bracelets and earrings are nice too. Are the red stones rubies? And pearls?"
The young woman blushed. "Oh, these? They aren't anything special. Only stuff I put together." She turned away to scoop ice cream. Violet wanted to ask about her name tag, which said Sarah instead of Savannah. But it did not seem like the woman wanted to talk.
The children and Grandfather sat at a table and ate their ice cream. Soon Ms. Freeman joined them.
Henry asked, "Are you worried about the storm, Ms. Freeman? Should we put up boards like the man next door?"
"I've seen enough storms hit Port Elizabeth," Ms. Freeman said. "We'll survive one more. I'm only concerned about one thing. We've had some issues with the power lately. It's the strangest thing. Some days I come in, and the ice cream is soft and runny — like it's been melting overnight."
"That is strange," Henry said.
"I have a backup generator though," Ms. Freeman continued. "So if the power does go out, the generator will turn on. It will keep the ice cream cold and run the security system."
Benny's eyes got wide. "Security system? Do you think someone will come and steal the ice cream?"
Ms. Freeman smiled. "More likely they'd steal money from the cash register. We don't keep much overnight, but it's better to be safe. Things can get a little crazy when a storm hits. You never know what people will do."
"Maybe we should stay here and protect the ice cream," said Benny. "Just in case."
Everyone laughed. "We'll be more comfortable at Ms. Freeman's house," said Grandfather. He winked at Benny. "We can get some ice cream to go, for after dinner."
Benny nodded. "That's a good idea. And after the storm, we'll come back and make sure the ice cream is safe."CHAPTER 2
The wind blew hard all night. Rain drummed the roof and washed down the windows.
In the morning, the power was out. Everyone gathered in the kitchen. As Violet peered out the window, she thought back to the children's first night in the boxcar.
After their parents died, Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny had run away. A bad storm hit, and they had no place to stay. Then they found an old boxcar in the woods. It had rained and rained, but no water came in. The boxcar was such a good shelter the children made it their home. That was where Grandfather found them. At first, Violet and her siblings had been afraid Grandfather would be mean, but they realized he wasn't mean at all. He gave them a real home in Greenfield, Connecticut. He even moved the boxcar to their backyard to use as a clubhouse.
Henry looked over Violet's shoulder. "I don't see lights on anywhere. Maybe the whole area lost power."
"Probably," said Ms. Freeman. "After a storm like that, we might not have power for days."
Violet turned from the window. "Mrs. McGregor will be worried. We should call and tell her we're okay." Mrs. McGregor was the Aldens' housekeeper. She was back in Greenfield with their dog, Watch.
"I'm worried!" said Benny. "With no power, what will we make to eat?"
"We can eat cold food, Benny," said Jessie.
Benny nodded. "But will the food in the refrigerator go bad?" he asked. "We should eat the rest of the ice cream before it melts!"
Grandfather ruffled Benny's hair. "We can find a healthier breakfast. Let me call Mrs. McGregor first." He pulled out his cell phone. "Uh-oh. I can't get a connection."
"Without power, the cell phone towers don't work," said Ms. Freeman. "A few have battery backups, but they run out quickly when many people use them after a storm."
Violet looked at Grandfather. "What are we going to do? I don't want Mrs. McGregor to wonder if we are okay."
"Not to worry," said Ms. Freeman. "We'll just have to do things the old-fashioned way."
She went into the next room and brought back a big telephone with a spinning dial and a long cord. "I still have a landline," she explained. "The wires go underground, so they are protected from storms. This phone might look old, but it almost always works when the power goes out."
Ms. Freeman showed Violet how to use the spinning dial on the phone, and Violet called Mrs. McGregor and told her everyone was okay. "It's strange not having power," Violet added. "We can't use our computers or the TV. But we'll take care of ourselves." She passed the phone to Grandfather.
Ms. Freeman put another object on the table, and the children gathered around. The thing looked like a plastic clock with a handle on top.
"What's that?" Benny asked.
"A hand-crank radio," Ms. Freeman said. She pointed at a black arm attached to the radio. "That is the crank."
"What does it do?" asked Benny.
"Turning the crank charges a battery inside," Ms. Freeman said. "After a few minutes, you'll get an hour of power."
"Cool!" Benny held the radio and turned the crank.
"Now we can listen to music," said Jessie.
"And get news," Ms. Freeman said. "This is a weather alert radio. It will tell us about any emergencies."
"You really know how to prepare for a storm," Henry said.
Ms. Freeman nodded. "I have an emergency supply bag. It has a first aid kit, two flashlights, batteries, and a whistle to call for help. I keep packaged foods in the pantry and drinking water in sealed jugs in case something happens to the water supply."
Benny put down the crank radio. "My arm is getting tired. I need breakfast!"
"It's your lucky day, Mr. Benny," said Ms. Freeman. "We need to eat a lot of food."
Benny bounced in his seat. "Really?"
Ms. Freeman nodded. "Without power, the fridge is getting warmer. Things will start to spoil. We should eat what we can before it goes bad."
Jessie tapped her chin. "We shouldn't open the door for very long," she said. "The closed door helps keep in the cold. Why don't you tell me what you want, and I'll get it."
"Let's see," said Ms. Freeman. "Grab the eggs, milk, and cheese."
Jessie opened the refrigerator. She quickly passed the food to Violet, who put it on the counter.
"Get the hash browns from the freezer," Ms. Freeman said. Those joined the pile near the stove.
"You can cook without electricity?" Benny asked.
"You sure can." Ms. Freeman lit a match, turned a knob on the stove, and held the match to a burner. A circle of flames lit up. "It's a gas stove. It usually uses electricity to light the gas, but a match works just as well."
Ms. Freeman cooked omelets. She made coffee in a pot that brewed on the stove. Jessie poured milk while Violet set the table. Henry cranked the radio to build up its power. Then they all sat down to a big breakfast.
A few minutes later, Grandfather patted his stomach. "That was delicious. I'm stuffed."
"The freezer is still almost full," said Jessie. "We won't be able to eat everything today."
"We can try!" said Benny. "We don't want to waste good food, remember?"
Ms. Freeman laughed. "I'll show you a trick." She got a penny from her purse. "This will let us know if the food stays good. Can you guess how?"
The children all thought for a bit. Finally, Violet asked, "Is this a riddle?"
"Maybe it's a mystery," said Benny. "We like mysteries!"
"It's more of a handy little trick," said Ms. Freeman. "I'll give you a hint. If the power is out for a long time, the food in the freezer will melt. How do you know if that has happened?"
"The frozen food will be soft," said Henry.
"Or, if you have ice cubes in trays," said Jessie, "the ice will become water."
Ms. Freeman nodded. "When the power goes back on, the freezer will get cold again. Something might thaw and go bad, then freeze again."
Jessie frowned. "You wouldn't know. The ice cubes would refreeze. The food would get hard again."
"Right." Ms. Freeman opened the freezer and put the penny on a cube in the ice tray. "The ice cubes are hard, so the penny sits on top. If the ice thaws, the penny will sink. And if the ice cubes freeze again, the penny will stay on the bottom."
Jessie grinned. "I get it. If the penny is on top of the ice, the food is still good. If the penny has sunk, the food might have gone bad."
"That's a neat trick," Henry said. He carried their dishes to the sink. "What are we going to do today, after we clean up? We can't visit the tall ships festival anymore."
Violet looked out the window. "It's still raining hard. I guess we won't play outside."
"We can't watch TV or use computers," Jessie said. "Ms. Freeman, do you have board games?"
"A few," she said. "And if you'd like to try a compass, I have one."
"Yes, please," Henry said. "We can practice navigating like the ships at sea."
The Aldens kept busy all day long. Henry taught Benny to use the compass. The children played board games. Grandfather taught them to play charades, and each of them took turns trying to act out a word without speaking. The rest of the group tried to guess the word, which usually led to lots of laughter. They ate food from the freezer and refrigerator, starting with the items that would go bad first. After dinner, they each had a bowl of ice cream.
In the evening, Ms. Freeman said, "It looks like the weather is finally starting to clear up. I wonder if there's any news. Turn up the radio, please."
Henry adjusted the dials on the radio, and everyone listened. A report came on. "The tropical storm weakened as it moved up the coast," a man said. "However, we have reports of flooding and wind damage in Port Elizabeth. Residents should stay indoors until the storm lets up."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Boxcar Children The Power Down Mystery"
Copyright © 2019 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
1. The Coming Storm,
3. The Bear Facts,
4. Shipwreck on Main,
5. Follow That Bear!,
6. Copies and Clues,
7. Getting Warmer, Getting Cooler,
8. The Bear Trap,
9. Treasure on a Trailer,
10. Cleaning Up Clues,