The Aldens are spending spring break on a beach, but they aren’t just soaking up the sun. They’re protecting an endangered species! Their job is to mark sea turtle nests so the eggs can be moved to a safe place to hatch, but someone is digging up the eggs without permission. Can the Boxcar Children figure out what’s going on and help save the sea turtles?
About the Author
Gertrude Chandler Warner was born in 1890 in Putnam, Connecticut, where she later taught school. She 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
What's in the Water?
Six-year-old Benny Alden was confused. He tilted his head to the side and looked at the map in his sister Violet's hands. Violet was ten, and she was helping teach Benny how to read the map. The two were in the back seat of Grandfather's car on their way to a place called Padre Island. Benny pointed. "I know this word says island, but I thought islands were round. This one looks like a big line on the map."
"Padre Island is a barrier island," said Henry from the front seat. Henry was the oldest of the Alden children. At fourteen, he had learned about different land formations in school. "Most barrier islands are long and narrow and not very far from land. They're kind of like big sandbars."
Benny's twelve-year-old sister Jessie spoke up next. "Look out the window! We're about to cross the bridge to the island!"
Within just a few minutes, Grandfather pulled into a parking lot and stopped the car. It had been a long journey. But the view was worth it.
Behind them, seagrasses and flowering vines covered the sand dunes. The beach and the ocean were right in front of them. The four children jumped out and ran down to the water. Grandfather followed with Watch, the Aldens' wirehaired terrier.
Violet couldn't believe what she saw. "There are millions and millions of shells here!" she said, picking up a couple. "All different kinds too." She was so excited about the shells she didn't even notice when a big blue heron flew overhead.
"It's such a wide-open space. We can see for miles," said Jessie. "I'm going to take lots of pictures."
"Where are all the buildings?" asked Benny.
"There aren't any houses or shops on this part of the island," said Grandfather. "This is a national seashore, which is a lot like a national park. The land has been set aside so it can be protected."
Henry walked back toward the car to a sandy area in front of the dunes. "Jessie, don't you think this is a good place for the tent?" he asked. "It's close to the visitor center and the ranger station."
"Yes, it's perfect," said Jessie.
The children piled everything at the spot Henry had chosen. When they were finished and Grandfather was closing up the back of the car, a truck sped past them. It drove right off the road and onto the sand. Then it sped down the beach.
"I didn't know people could drive on the beach," said Henry. "That looks like fun."
"This seashore is very long," said Grandfather. "It would take a lot of time to travel all the way down it on foot. Vehicles help people get there faster. There are speed limits, but you'll have to watch out for cars on the beach."
"We will," said Jessie.
"Are you sure you don't want to camp with us, Grandfather?" Benny asked.
Grandfather smiled. "I'm sure. I'll be happy sitting in a rocking chair on the porch of the inn back on the mainland. But when I see you in the evenings, you'll have to tell me all about your adventures."
The children promised they would, then said good-bye. After Grandfather had gone, the Aldens got to work setting up the tent and organizing the supplies. When they were done, Jessie looked over everything. She liked to keep things organized. "It looks like we have everything we need," she said.
"It's a lot more than we had when we lived in the boxcar," said Henry.
"That seems like such a long time ago," Violet said. "I can't believe we didn't even want to meet Grandfather back then."
After the Aldens' parents had died, the children had run away. They hadn't wanted to live with their grandfather because they were afraid he would be mean. They found an old boxcar in the woods and had lived in it until their grandfather found them. He turned out not to be mean at all! Now they lived with Grandfather back in Greenfield, Connecticut, and the boxcar was their clubhouse.
Jessie picked up her camera and put the strap around her neck. "It was nice of Grandfather to arrange this vacation for us. I don't know about everyone else, but I'm ready to explore the beach."
"Yay!" Benny yelled, running down to the ocean. "The water is so warm!" he called to the others. He jumped up and down, splashing. Then all of a sudden he stopped and looked down. Then he looked back up at the others. Jessie could see that he was scared as he ran back to the beach.
"There's something in there!" he yelled. "It's after me!"
"Whoa, Benny, don't be scared," Henry said. "The water is too shallow for a big fish."
Jessie waded in and looked down at the water. "Sometimes the way the waves move over the sand makes it look like something is moving in the water. It's just a trick on your eyes."
"But I did see something," Benny said. He stretched his arms out as wide as he could. "Something this big."
Henry and Watch came to the edge of the water as a big wave came in and then rolled back. Watch barked and stepped back a few steps.
"There!" yelled Benny.
Where Benny pointed, a big clump of sand seemed to rise up from the sandy bottom. Watch barked again at the strange shape. Then another wave washed some of the sand away, revealing a strange-looking creature. Benny was right. There was something in the shallows. Something big!CHAPTER 2
Not a Bird's Nest
"A giant sea turtle!" said Violet. The turtle was much bigger than any she had seen. It had a smooth, light gray shell and long flipper arms, which it was using to pull itself up onto the beach.
"It's moving so slow," said Benny. "Even for a turtle. Is it sick?"
"I think it's moving so slowly because it doesn't have legs like a land turtle," Jessie said. "I've seen these kinds of turtles on TV. It's amazing how they use their flippers to glide through the water and ride the currents."
"Should we help it?" Violet asked. "I think it's confused."
"Silly turtle. Go back to the water," Benny called.
"Even if it is confused, we can't pick it up," Henry said. "It's too big."
As they watched the turtle crawl up the sand, they heard a voice call, "Don't go any closer! Stay back! Stay back!"
Violet jumped. She hadn't noticed anyone nearby, but a man got out of a white van near the dunes and ran toward them waving his arms. "Stay away! Keep your dog away!"
The man sounded upset, and the Aldens stepped back.
"We weren't going to hurt it," Henry told him. "We were just wondering why it was out of the water."
The man glared at them. "This whole area is a sea turtle nesting ground. This particular species is endangered, so we have to protect them as best we can."
"What does endangered mean?" Benny asked.
"It means there aren't many of them still living in the wild," the man said.
"Are you a park ranger?" Violet asked him. The man wasn't wearing a uniform, but he wasn't wearing normal beach clothes either, except for a big straw hat. His tan pants and white shirt looked like the clothes Grandfather wore to his office in the summer.
"No, I'm not a ranger, but I am a turtle expert." The man motioned at the beach. "You should go play somewhere else."
"So this turtle is going to its nest?" asked Violet. She didn't see anything that looked like a nest.
"It digs a hole in the sand," the man said. "That is its nest."
Just as the man said this, the turtle stopped crawling. It started using its flippers to wiggle down into the sand.
"I'll go get my sandcastle shovel and help it dig!" said Benny.
"No!" the man shouted. "You might scare it. Turtles always dig nests like this. It knows what it's doing and doesn't need any help."
Other beachgoers started to notice the turtle. Soon at least a dozen people were gathered. The man with the straw hat kept telling the crowd to leave the turtle alone. As more people stopped to look, the man's face started to get red with frustration.
Then a shaggy brown dog wearing a red scarf around its neck ran up. It was panting and dragging a leash. The man grabbed the end of the leash and pulled the dog away just before it got to the turtle.
"Sandy, no!" a woman called as she ran toward the crowd. She was struggling to hold on to several beach bags as she ran. The woman was wearing a bandanna made of the same fabric as the one around the dog's neck.
"Martina, keep better hold of your dog!" the man snapped at her. "I've seen him running loose more than once now. If you can't keep him on a leash, I'll see that he gets banned from the beach."
The woman named Martina took the end of the leash from the man. "He won't hurt the turtles or the eggs," she said. "He's just curious. I know you don't like dogs, Mr. Chatman, but don't assume Sandy is a bad dog because of that."
The man in the straw hat glared at her. "Even if he doesn't mean to hurt the turtle, he might scare it. That could make it go back to the water without laying its eggs. Keep him away!"
"Come on, Sandy," said Martina. The woman led the dog down the beach and then stopped at a distance to watch the turtle.
As more people joined the crowd, Mr. Chatman's face turned even redder. Violet heard him mumble, "It's no use. There are too many people here now." He took out his cell phone and made a call. "We've got one. Right past mile marker six."
As Mr. Chatman was on the phone, Henry noticed a silver truck coming fast down the beach. Too fast. As it got closer, the driver slowed a little, but only to honk at people to get out of the way. Then it sped away. As the truck passed, Henry noticed a picture on its side door of a fish leaping out of the water. Underneath were the words Fischer's Custom Fishing Trips.
"Slow down, Fischer!" Mr. Chatman yelled, shaking his fist at the truck. "Did you see that?" he said to the crowd. "He almost ran over the nest!"
"Does he know there are giant sea turtles here?" Jessie asked.
Mr. Chatman's face was turning very red. "Of course he does! And he knows it's nesting season. Everyone is supposed to slow down, but he never follows the speed limits."
Violet wanted to know more about the turtle, and even though the man did not seem very friendly, he did seem to know about the animals. "Do you know what kind of turtle this is, Mr. Chatman?" she asked.
"Of course I do," the man said. "Didn't you hear me say I'm a turtle expert?" He waved his hand toward the turtle. "This is called a Kemp's ridley sea turtle, and it's no giant. It's actually the smallest type of sea turtle. But it is much bigger than most land turtles."
Other people in the crowd began to ask questions, which seemed to annoy Mr. Chatman, but he gave good answers.
"I guess he really is a turtle expert," Jessie whispered to her brothers and sister.
"A cranky one!" said Benny.
"Here comes another vehicle," said Henry.
"It's funny looking," said Violet. "It doesn't look big enough to be a real car."
"That is a utility vehicle, a UTV," Mr. Chatman said. "They are good for getting around the island."
"Wow!" said Benny. "Is that a real park ranger inside?"
The woman driving was wearing a khaki outfit and a ranger-style hat. Her shiny black hair was pulled into a bun. "She's got a badge on," said Henry. "She looks very official."
"That's Ms. Thakur, the ranger I called," said Mr. Chatman. He started waving and yelled, "Over here! Over here!"
The woman stopped the UTV and got out, carrying a bag.
Mr. Chatman kept shouting, even though Jessie didn't think he needed to. The woman was coming toward them as fast as she could.
When the ranger reached the scene, Mr. Chatman started telling her about the truck that had driven down the beach. "You should really have a talk with that Tommy Fischer," he said.
"I thought this was about a turtle, Mr. Chatman," the ranger said.
Mr. Chatman rolled his eyes. "It is, Ms. Thakur. I'm just filling you in on some important information. The turtle is right over there."
The ranger pulled a pair of rubber gloves out of the bag, put them on, and grabbed a short rope. She walked up to the turtle very slowly, knelt down, and placed the rope at the edge of the hole. The turtle didn't seem to notice. Then Ms. Thakur moved away slowly.
"Why did you put the rope there?" Violet asked.
"It marks the nest," said Ms. Thakur. "If I have to leave before she's finished laying her eggs, I'll know where the nest is when I come back."
Ms. Thakur walked over to Mr. Chatman. "Thank you for calling," she said. "Have you thought about doing our Turtle Patrol training program?"
"I don't have time for any training," Mr. Chatman said. "And I already know all about turtles. It would be a waste of my time."
The ranger raised an eyebrow. "You might be surprised at what you could learn," she said.
The man grumbled and went back to his van. Ms. Thakur turned to the Aldens. "I know Mr. Chatman. But I don't believe I've met you children yet. Where are you from?"
Henry told the ranger they were visiting from Connecticut. "We just got here. I can't believe we were lucky enough to see a turtle right away!"
"You've come at a good time of year," Ms. Thakur said. "The females come ashore from April to June to nest. And here's the most amazing part: they come back to the same beaches they were born on!"
Violet looked at the turtle nestled down in the sand. She imagined it returning to this place years after it was born. The turtle had looked so lost coming out of the water. But now Violet saw that the animal knew exactly what it was doing.
"I think she's done laying her eggs," said Ms. Thakur. "Now watch what she does next."
As the children watched, the turtle used her flippers to push sand on top of the eggs. Then she turned around and pulled herself slowly back toward the water. A wave caught the turtle, and within seconds, she had disappeared into the blue water.
"See? She did such a good job covering up the nest, you can't even tell she was here, except for the flipper marks and the rope sticking out." Ms. Thakur went to her vehicle and grabbed a white container and brought it over to the nest. Then she did something Benny did not expect. She started digging up the nest!
When the ranger had dug enough sand so that the eggs were visible, she carefully picked up each one and put it into the cooler. The children could see there was sand in the bottom of the cooler, which helped keep the eggs in place.
"I thought they'd look like bird eggs," Benny said. "These are round like ping-pong balls."
The ranger laughed. "You're right. They do look like ping-pong balls."
"Why are you taking them away?" Violet asked. "Won't the turtle come back to look for them?"
"The mother doesn't come back to the eggs," the ranger explained. "Turtle eggs aren't like bird eggs, where the parents keep them warm. The sand and the sun do that. The eggs hatch on their own, and the little turtles make their way to the ocean all by themselves."
The ranger sighed. "Well, that's the way it's supposed to happen. But these turtles are so endangered that it's important for every egg to hatch. Very few Kemp's ridley sea turtles live long enough to lay their own eggs." She picked up the last egg, placed it in the cooler, and put the lid on.
"Coyotes, raccoons, and even crabs like to eat the eggs. And because vehicles are allowed to drive on the beach, sometimes the sand gets pushed down, and the hatchlings have trouble making it to the ocean. We bring the eggs to our facility so they can be protected until they hatch. Then we release them."
The ranger took out a marker and wrote on a label on the top of the cooler. "We keep track of the date and place we find each nest," she said as she stood up. "Today has been a busy day. I've collected eggs from two other nests, and I had a call about one more."
She put the cooler back in her vehicle. "It's not too far down the beach. Do you children want to watch me collect those eggs too?"
The Aldens all agreed. They were curious to learn more about the turtles. The UTV went slowly, so the children didn't have any trouble keeping up on foot.
A couple hundred feet up the beach, the ranger stopped and got out. She looked around with a frown. "The nest is supposed to be right here," she said. "But I don't see the marker. There should be an orange flag."
"I see something orange over there," Violet said, motioning toward the sand dunes. "It looks like a flag, but it isn't stuck into the ground."
"That's not good," the ranger said, hurrying toward the dunes.
The flag lay near a big hole in the sand, but there were no eggs inside.
"Not again!" the ranger said. "They're gone!"CHAPTER 3
A Clue in the Night
"What happened to the eggs?" Violet asked.
The children gathered around the empty hole in the sand.
"If an animal dug up the eggs, wouldn't there be broken shells?" Henry asked.
"That's a good observation, Henry," Ms. Thakur said. "Yes, I'm afraid a person dug this nest up."
"Why would someone do that?" asked Jessie.
The ranger sighed. "To sell them, I'm afraid. Because these turtles are endangered, some people will pay a lot of money for the eggs. It's illegal to take them, but poachers do it anyway."
Benny was confused. "What's a poacher?"
"It's someone who takes something that doesn't belong to them," said Ms. Thakur. "We don't usually have a poaching problem here, but there have been a number of nests that have gone missing recently. Now I know someone is stealing them."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Boxcar Children: The Sea Turtle 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. What's in the Water?,
2. Not a Bird's Nest,
3. A Clue in the Night,
4. Real Writing, Real Clue,
5. Rangers on Patrol,
6. Too Many Suspects,
7. The Expert at the Restaurant,
8. Turtles Everywhere,
9. Seaweed Marks the Spot,
10. They're Off!,