Boxcar Children: The Boardwalk Mystery
Written by Gertrude Chandler Warner
Another lively mystery with the Alden family. The Alden children, Henry, Jessie, Violet and Benny, could have still been living in their boxcar but long ago Grandfather took them in. Now they have a habit of solving mysteries everywhere they go. This summer, Grandfather took them to New Jersey to visit Mr. Hanson, one of his good friends. Mr. Hanson bought an amusement pier along the New Jersey shore. He said he always wanted to own one. His children, Wendy and Will, were not so happy. They missed their friends in Colorado. Even worse, pranks and practical jokes were ruining business at Mr. Hanson’s amusement pier. There are even rumors that the rides at the pier are not safe. Each time one of the Alden children help repair or clean up after the pranks, they gather one more clue about what is really going on. They noticed spatters of paint on Wendy’s shoes like the red paint used for mean messages. There is the angry Mrs. Reddy, who used to own the pier and she complains about how badly Mr. Hanson is running the pier. There is Mr. Cooke, who owns all the other amusement piers on the shore and wants this one, too. The Alden children each have their own talent, especially Benny, whose talent is to get into trouble. One by one they put the clues together and see how all those people played a part in the pranks. Violet has an idea that might save the pier if they can stop the pranks.
This mystery is the right length and complexity to intrigue young middle grade readers. The clues are laid out well, hinting at the underlying motivation of the characters. These updated stories use the familiar characters to engage a new generation of readers. The reading level is a solid fourth grade and it is a good length for a class read aloud. Use early in the fourth grade year. Have the students keep a list of clues like the Alden children do as a reading worksheet and see who can solve the mystery first.