The allure of the open road has long been a source of fascination in American literature and life. Writers from Walt Whitman to Jack Kerouac have given voice to the longing felt by many to strike out in search of something new, something better, something different.
For Gertrude Chandler Warner that open road took the form of the railroad that ran past the house in 19th century Putnam where she grew up. That experience, combined with a good imagination and a love of children, led her to produce an immensely popular series of books, The Boxcar Children written for those in grades 2-6.
She died in 1979, but the staying power of her children’s literary franchise is such that in 2012 the School Library Journal named her original book as one of the “Top 100 Chapter Books” of all time. The National Education Association, citing a 2007 poll, named it as one of its “Teachers’ Top 100 Books for children”.
Since 2004 devoted followers also have made their way to her hometown tucked up in the state’s northeastern “Quiet Corner” to go through a museum devoted to her and her literary offerings. Appropriately enough the museum is located in a real boxcar not far from her girlhood home and the school where she would later teach first grade.
Before you visit that precious bit of Americana, celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, take a look at more about Gertrude Chandler Warner and her contributions to firing the imaginations of countless young children.