Few children today have not been touched by Gertrude Chandler Warner’s classic book series The Boxcar Children, which captures all the charm and adventure of being a parentless underage destitute living in an abandoned train car. Now, these timeless stories are being updated for a new generation with the release of the series The Boxcar Adults: Just Regular Homeless People.
Penned by nameless ghostwriters, these books attempt to sustain the realism of the original series and preserve its relevance, by describing what would realistically happen in the kids’ lives if they continued to live in a boxcar 15 years later, after the death of their grandfather. The old gang’s surviving members still have a penchant for mystery solving and exploring, but the new plotlines revolve around adult boxcar-dweller problems, like the ones found in The Case of the Missing Dope Spoon, The Great Tooth-Loss Caper, and Should We Eat Our Own Clothes to Survive?
While The Atlantic Monthly has lauded the new series for its “gritty realism” and “no-holds-barred depictions of addiction, crippling poverty, and starvation,” there has been backlash over the potential impact these books will have on both the legacy of the originals and the minds of curious children who want to explore what happens to these beloved characters.
Publishers have fought back against this criticism by claiming that it stays true to what would actually to happen to a group of people who lived in an abandoned boxcar with few survival skills when they became adults. And though they insist that these books are mostly for an older demographic, they claim that children can read the books as cautionary tales, lest they think that if they run away to have a “life of adventure with their friends” there will be toilet paper, food, and protection from the toothless, sunken-faced, squatters in surrounding boxcars that look like they just crawled out of Winter’s Bone and who will sell their hair for meth, waiting for them on the other side.
Whatever the case may be, the new books make for thrilling stories. Although the Boxcar Children may have grown up to be a bunch of average shiftless tetanus-riddled drug-addict hobos, at least they’re still making us smile.