Gertrude Chandler Warner was born in Putnam, Connecticut, on April 16, 1890, to Edgar and Jane Warner. Her family included a sister, Frances, and a brother, John. From the age of five, she dreamed of becoming an author. She wrote stories for her Grandfather Carpenter, and each Christmas she gave him one of these stories as a gift. Today, Ms. Warner is best remembered as the author of THE BOXCAR CHILDREN MYSTERIES.
As a child, Gertrude enjoyed many of the things that girls enjoy today. She loved furnishing a dollhouse with handmade furniture and she liked to read. Her favorite book was ALICE IN WONDERLAND. Often on Sundays after church, Gertrude enjoyed trips to visit her grandparents' farm. Along the way, she and Frances would stop to pick the wildflowers they both loved. Gertrude's favorite flower was the violet.
Her family was a very musical one. They were able to have a family orchestra, and Gertrude enjoyed playing the cello. Her father had brought her one from New York ---a cello, a bow, a case and an instruction book. All together, he paid $14. Later, as an adult, she began playing the pipe organ and sometimes substituted for the church organist.
Due to ill health, Ms. Warner never finished high school. She left in the middle of her second year and studied with a tutor. Then, in 1918, when teachers were called to serve in World War I, the school board asked her to teach first grade. She had forty children in the morning and forty more in the afternoon. Ms. Warner wrote, "I was asked or begged to take this job because I taught Sunday School. But believe me, day school is nothing like Sunday School, and I sure learned by doing --- I taught in that same room for 32 years, retiring at 60 to have more time to write." Eventually, Ms. Warner attended Yale, where she took several teacher training courses.
Once when she was sick and had to stay home from teaching, she thought up the story about the Boxcar Children. It was inspired by her childhood dreams. As a child, she had spent hours watching the trains go by near her family's home. Sometimes she could look through the window of a caboose and see a small stove, a little table, cracked cups with no saucers, and a tin coffee pot boiling away on the stove. The sight had fascinated her and made her dream about how much fun it would be to live and keep house in a boxcar or caboose. She read the story to her classes and rewrote it many times so the words were easy to understand. Some of her pupils spoke other languages at home and were just learning English. THE BOXCAR CHILDREN gave them a fun story that was easy to read.
Ms. Warner once wrote for her fans, "Perhaps you know that the original BOXCAR CHILDREN. . . raised a storm of protest from librarians who thought the children were having too good a time without any parental control! That is exactly why children like it! Most of my own childhood exploits, such as living in a freight car, received very little cooperation from my parents."
Though the story of THE BOXCAR CHILDREN went through some changes after it was first written, the version that we are familiar with today was originally published in 1942 by Scott Foresman. Today, Albert Whitman & Company publishes this first classic story as well as the next eighteen Alden children adventures that were written by Ms. Warner.
Gertrude Chandler Warner died in 1979 at the age of 89 after a full life as a teacher, author, and volunteer for the American Red Cross and other charitable organizations. After her death, Albert Whitman & Company continued to receive mail from children across the country asking for more adventures about Henry, Jessie, Violet and Benny Alden. In 1991, Albert Whitman added to THE BOXCAR CHILDREN MYSTERIES so that today's children can enjoy many more adventures about this independent and caring group of children.
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