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One out of every five U.S. residents functions at a "below basic" level of literacy, struggling with tasks such as rea... More
Summary: Times are hard for the Aldens of Fair Meadow Farm, and winter is making it more so. The Clarks, who just lost their their home, now lost their car in a blizzard. The Aldens take in the family, and soon, Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny not only have helpers with chores, they have new friends, too. Winter turned to spring, then summer ... and then tragedy struck. Ben and Kate Alden were killed in a car accident. What happens next is up to the four orphaned children. This is a prequel for Gertrude Chandler Warner's Boxcar Children series.
Type of Reading: bedtime story, family reading, anytime reading, read aloud book, independent reading
Recommended Age: read together: 8 and Up; read yourself: 9 and Up
Interest Level: 8 and up
Reading Level: 3.1
Young Reader Reaction: Review pending.
Adult Reader Reaction: As surprising as it may sound, I have never read any of Warner's Boxcar Children books. Even without knowing those stories, I found MacLachlan's prequel to be enjoyable. Even knowing the sad "ending" to come, I would characterize it as a comfort read ... one I would go back to again.
Pros: This is a timeless story of simpler times and harder living. Whether you've met the Alden children in other books or are just being introduced, you'll find this an enjoyable, fast read.
Cons: None, really. Parents with children who are sensitive to loss or death may want to read this first or prepare their child as the story gets further along.
Educational Themes: This is a book where young readers (with guidance) can practice thinking about what's next. Use the book as a baseline for further reading about the Great Depression and rural life.
Notes: The publisher donated a copy of this book knowing that we would consider it for review and provide an independent, unbiased profile. This book will be given to a nonprofit to help readers in need.
Literary Categories: Fiction - family, adventure, easy reader series, death and loss, adoption
Date(s) Reviewed: January 2013
Other Reviews: See Critics' Reviews and reader feedback at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.