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Surprise Island

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Summer vacation on an almost private island gives the Aldens a challenge.


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Summer vacation on an almost private island gives the Aldens a challenge.

30 review for Surprise Island

  1. 5 out of 5

    Meredith Buchanan

    I was going to read Surprise Island, and then comment on it, but every page is such a treasure trove of clichés, naïveté, and ridiculousness, that I think I might have to grace you with a running commentary. Chapter One: The First Surprise The book begins with Grandfather lovingly telling his grandchildren that he bought them an island, *cough* I mean, his father bought an island a long time ago, and they can stay there ALL SUMMER. He’d visit, but he’s just too busy. Grandfather: (Shrug.) “But boy, I was going to read Surprise Island, and then comment on it, but every page is such a treasure trove of clichés, naïveté, and ridiculousness, that I think I might have to grace you with a running commentary. Chapter One: The First Surprise The book begins with Grandfather lovingly telling his grandchildren that he bought them an island, *cough* I mean, his father bought an island a long time ago, and they can stay there ALL SUMMER. He’d visit, but he’s just too busy. Grandfather: (Shrug.) “But boy, I sure will miss you kids. It will be ever so quiet without Benny crying about milk and Watch barking at every gosh darn squirrel in the yard, and Henry constantly hammering on his next woodworking project” (a bookcase that leans crookedly to one side and can only support the weight of a few magazines). Grandfather cleverly threw away all the supplies usually kept at the island, so his heirs will have the fun of buying all new things. The highlight of this chapter is when Grandfather tells them not to spend too much money, and they all laugh uproariously because they are fantastically wealthy and can buy anything they desire! Mwuhahaha! Jessie harps on about bread and milk, which must be some symbolic thread that runs through all the books that I am just not picking up on, because otherwise I’m not sure why it needs to be mentioned in every chapter. Did Gertrude’s family own a bread and milk conglomerate? Because, stop me if I’m wrong, but despite Jessie’s many exaltations to the contrary, bread and milk are NOT adequate nutritional staples to live on. I love that she claims that they can live on bread and milk, ‘even if there’s nothing else to eat.’ It’s like she already has a sneaking suspicion that Grandfather is going to dump them on a deserted island and collect the insurance money. Grandfather has kindly arranged a chaperone for the children, a Captain Daniel, who has acquired a possibly deranged young man as a roommate. Despite the fact that there is a seemingly perfectly serviceable empty house on the island, Grandfather commands that the children sleep in the barn. Which of course THRILLS them, because what do orphans love more than sleeping on scratchy piles of pine straw? Scratchy piles of hay of course! Henry is delighted by the large amount of scrap wood left behind by ‘workmen,’ which he can use for all his ‘woodworking projects.’ And of course there is cold water nearby, so everyone is pretty stoked. Chapter Two: Housekeeping Henry’s old friend Dr. Moore goes by and checks out the mysterious itinerant stranger that lives with the Captain. I guess solely because someone has to be a responsible adult and make sure they aren’t leaving four prepubescent teens with a serial killer. Dr. Moore is easily satisfied with ‘Joe’s’ tale of digging for Indian stuff and falling off a cliff and getting amnesia, because that all sounds pretty plausible. Joe even tells him his secret identity, which must be a doozy, because Dr. Moore agrees to deceive the whole family. I am desperately hoping that Joe will be revealed as Grandfather’s love child, or the orphans’ secret older brother, or even royalty forced to assume a peasant ruse to protect himself from an evil queen. But who are we kidding? It’s probably just someone’s cousin that dropped out of college or something equally boring with zero reason for being a secret. Grandfather is almost concerned about the hobo living with his grandchildren, but the lure of a kid-free summer filled with hookers and blow wipes any objections from his mind. The group goes back to the mainland because Benny is all in a froth to ‘buy things.’ I like to think of him running down the aisles of the Pottery Barn, blindly grasping anything off the shelf to satiate his consumerist frenzy. It’s kind of disheartening how quickly these children have evolved from orphans satisfied by trips to the dump, to possession-driven machines. They decide that their school clothes are ‘too nice’ to wear exploring the island, so they have to buy new clothes. Specifically to get them dirty. Ugh, rich people logic. Grandfather almost panics when Henry tries to once again convince him to come along. I actually laughed aloud here: “He knew the children would not go at all unless he were careful. ‘I wouldn’t go with you if I could. I need a little rest without any children or dogs around.’ Sly like a fox Granfather. Tread carefully, or you might not be able to convince them to leave. The kids try to pretend that he is kidding, imagining some sort of twinkle in his eye, but deep down, they know they are just lying to themselves. The rest of the chapter is taken up with the children washing their dishes and discussing the ubiquitous bread and milk. Chapter Three: The Garden Shockingly, Henry discovers a garden in this chapter. He meets ‘Joe’ the handyman for the first time, and learns that Grandfather has forced Captain Daniel to cultivate two gardens, so that Henry can have his very own to muck around in and pretend to grow things. It’s mid-summer, so literally everything in the garden is already planted and ready to harvest, but the children still enjoy pretending like they had something to do with this end result. Several scintillating pages are devoted to the girls shelling the peas, and Henry building a ‘dish cupboard,’ which I’m pretty sure consists of nailing two crates together. Then the kids eat the peas. Chapter Four: Clamming Because we haven’t gotten enough about food and it’s preparation in the previous chapters, now we get to read about the orphans digging out clams. After that educational program, the group goes swimming, where once again they encounter ‘Joe.’ I’m sure he’s not following them or anything. He tricks Benny into going into the deep water, which everyone considers to be a good thing. Flush with his success integrating himself into the children’s confidences, he foolishly makes a grave mistake identifying flora for Violet. This sets off alarm bells for Henry, because how would a handyman, who does menial jobs for low pay, know such scientific terms, like, “red seaweed,” and “green seaweed,” and “brown seaweed??” As he falls asleep, Henry muses his suspicions to himself. “That handy man knew an awful lot about seaweed for an uneducated rube. And he knows a lot of colors.” Better watch out ‘Joe.’ There’s no getting things past Henry. Chapter Five: Summer Plan The gang takes a break from eating to explore the island. After finding such exotic treasures as rocks, flowers, and shells, Henry has the brilliant idea that they should make their own museum. All of them tell him how brilliant this is. Actually this is something I can see myself probably really enjoying as a kid, but I also read The Boxcar Children books all the time. So my thoughts are suspect. Violet helpfully makes a list of what they should collect for the museum: 1) Rocks 2) Flowers 3) Shells You know, so they won’t forget. ‘Joe’ is going to town, so the kids ask him to pick up some library books about rocks, flowers, and shells because learning is fun. This results in a PLOT TWIST where we the reader learn that ‘Joe’ doesn’t even need to ask the librarian for help finding books because he already knows bunches of science books. Based on all the heavy handed foreshadowing about ‘Joe’s’ scientific knowledge I am guessing he is either a mad scientist or a teacher. Chapter Six: The Museum Disappointingly, I now find all of ‘Joe’s’ scientific acumen to be suspect, since the book titles that he so suspiciously needed no librarian assistance to find are: The Flower Book. The Shell Book. The Butterfly Book Henry is again very suspicious of ‘Joe’s’ superior rock, flower, and shell knowledge. Henry: (to himself). “This ‘Joe’ character seems to be having a very easy time identifying these rocks, flowers, and shells. He must be very intelligent to be able to look them up in the books that he brought, compare the object to the picture, and tell what it is. I don’t believe a regular handyman would possess such skills.” While Henry is straining his mental faculties, the others are preparing the museum. There’s another heavy-handed hint of ‘Joe’s’ mystery identity when we learn that he receives two daily newspapers. Don’t worry Henry. He probably just uses them to wrap fish in. Grandfather sends the children sweaters as a gift. Violet’s turns out to be *spoiler alert* purple, and she internally sighs with repressed disappointment. Jessie takes this as a sign that the weather will soon get cold and then it does. I am kind of wondering if the children are living in a kind of biodome controlled by Grandfather. If some sort of Hunger Games break out I’m not going to complain. It rains during the night and the roof leaks. Henry has to stay up all night to empty the buckets when they fill up, because it would be inconceivable to let them overfill and ruin the nice dirt floor of the barn that they are living in. Benny complains about his bed being ruined, and I have to restrain myself from reminding him that his bed is a pile of hay. It has mice poop in it. Shut your trap Benny and GO BACK TO SLEEP. The next morning it is still raining, and Henry has a conundrum. He can’t go out in the rain in the clothes he’s wearing because they’ll get wet. He won’t be able to change into his other clothes because they’re already wet from Jessie washing them. (I almost suggested to Henry that he could just wear his slightly damp clothes since they are immediately going to get wet anyway, but I knew no one would listen to me.) Jessie and Henry decide the best way to solve this dilemma is to cut up all their blankets and make Henry a new outfit. Princess Consuela suggested to me that perhaps they came up with this plan so that Violet would have the joy of then turning the pants back into a blanket, seeing as she hasn’t gotten to hem anything so far. But I think that is way overestimating the intelligence of these children. Benny finally speaks up to point out that Henry could just wear his swimsuit, and then they could keep the blanket, for, you know, sleeping purposes or something. It’s a sad day when your six-year-old little brother is the voice of reason. Chapter Seven: Exploring After breakfast (we are spared the preparation detail), the crew goes exploring. Violet brings her sketchbook, because she paints now. I get the feeling that Violet is going to be cast as the Sensitive Artist character, what with her needlepoint, and painting, and general quiet reflection on where her life went wrong (clue: when she agreed to run away with her siblings and live in an empty train). They quickly find a huge pile of clamshells, which is a big deal apparently. Then they explore a cave and easily discover multiple Indian artifacts, which they pocket in the hopes that maybe they can sell them to a real museum. Because that’s just what they need: more money. Lucky thing they have Watch, because the dog is the only one intelligent enough to notice that the incoming tide is flooding the cave. They literally don’t notice until the water is deep enough to swim in. They narrowly escape drowning, but no one’s too worried about it. Chapter Eight: Indian Point ‘Joe’ is intrigued to hear about the shell pile that the kids found, because apparently he’s never seen it before, and it’s a sign that Indians once lived there. I’m going to ignore the fact that the Indian arrowheads are probably a more obvious sign that Indians lived there, and focus on the fact that ‘Joe’ has never seen this pile of shells before. Firstly, ‘Joe’ has already told us that he grew up here. I would assume that he would have wandered by a huge pile of shells sometime during his childhood. Let’s pretend he was lying about where he grew up. It’s been mentioned multiple times that this is a very small island. I’m imagining a few miles circumference. I have a hard time believing that this pile of shells is even out of sight from the barn. But that’s probably more believable than the children and ‘Joe’ launching their own archeology dig by the shell pile, and immediately turning up about 50 priceless artifacts. Including a skeleton with an arrow right through his ribs. Goonies never say die. Chapter Nine: A New Violin Mysterious music leads the children to Captain Daniel’s, where ‘Joe’ is playing a real violin. Violet, the Sensitive Artist, is mesmerized, and just wants to hold the violin, and clutch it to her chest, and cry bitter tears because it is so beautiful, and she feels so alive inside for the very first time, and has an indescribable urge to buy ironic tshirts and listen to obscure synthesizer bands. Jessie wakes up to crying, and surprise, it’s the Sensitive Artist, in tears because she can’t play the violin (and has never seen Blitzen Trapper in concert, probably). Jessie and Henry quickly reassure her that Grandfather will buy her the best violin ever—and she goes back to sleep happy that she is super rich. Sure enough, Grandfather has someone (not himself, not going to ruin the Summer of George over at the Alden mansion) buy her a violin first thing in the morning. It’s probably a Stradivari. The others go fishing while she practices with ‘Joe.’ Then shockingly enough, Jessie cooks the fish. And they eat the fish. And they talk about cooking and eating the fish the entire time. Chapter Ten: Grandfather’s Visit Grandfather sobers up enough to realize that maybe he should go check in on his four underage grandchildren that he’s abandoned on an island, and stops by for the afternoon. He feigns interest in their little museum and anecdotes, probably while daydreaming about his massage appointment at four and cursing his wicked hangover. Jessie invents a delicious drink, which consists of milk, sugar, and eggs (yes, to DRINK), and he has to choke it down with a smile on his face. Suspicious ‘Joe’ is suspiciously missing even though he (suspiciously) knew Grandfather was coming that day. Methinks that Grandfather knows ‘Joe’….(fingers crossed) longlost son, longlost son, longlost son…. Oh, yeh, and Grandfather takes the kids to a real museum, and then he’s all “This is my museum. My museum kicks your museum’s ass. And also I’m fantastically wealthy.” That’ll teach them to use their IMAGINATIONS. Chapter Eleven: Apple Pie Jessie makes an apple pie. A stranger stops by, which no one regards as weird, even though they are on a private island. Mr. Browning is looking for ‘someone that used to go exploring for him.’ He thought he was dead, but he heard a rumor he was alive on Alden Island. For all their professing of great friendship with ‘Joe,’ the kids immediately spill all his secrets to this stranger that they just met. Henry: “It’s probably him Mr. Browning. He’s supposed to be a handyman, but he knows all of these things about seaweed. It’s highly suspicious and I’ve been waiting and waiting for him to really slip up so I can report him to the proper authorities. Impersonating a handyman is just not right, and I won’t stand for it.” Chapter Twelve: The Picnic When ‘Joe’ returns, the children, his friends, are surprisingly tight-lipped about their little tete a tete with the mysterious Mr. Browning. Not even Benny drops a hint that some—possibly nefarious—stranger is looking for ‘Joe. ‘ Instead, the children distract him with the idea of throwing a party for their friends. They need his help because they’re not allowed to start fires by themselves. Now if you harken back to Boxcar days of old, you’ll remember that they set fires then all the time without adult supervision. I have a sneaking suspicion that one of them burned down Grandfather’s garden shed, and now they’ve lost their campfire privileges. This picnic looks even more like a diversion tactic when we find out that the children invited their school friends. Yeh, like those are real. Benny’s ‘friend,’ Mike, is a real hell-raiser, and he’s annoying all the older children until he ‘accidently’ is injured, forcing him to stay in sight the rest of the morning. However, he recovers enough to disappear with Benny, where they find an old letter in a bottle, that SURPRISE is a letter from their Grandfather when he was a boy, mapping the path to some BURIED TREASURE which turns out to be five bucks. Which they give to Mike because he won’t shut up about it. That thrilling plotline is interrupted when shouts from the water reveal that someone has fallen out of a boat! And he can’t swim! ‘Joe’ rescues him, but not before muttering some suspicious things under his breath, that of course Henry overhears. The drowning boy ends up being Mike’s older brother, who gate crashed the picnic with his buddy. Chapter Thirteen: Joe Again It’s Benny’s birthday, and of course he has ridiculous demands about his cake and his meal and the preparation of the above mentioned. ‘Joe’ joins them for dinner, and Mr. Browning shows up! And then we have ‘Joe’s’ big reveal as ‘John!’ And by big reveal, I mean, Mr. Browning calls him John, and then Joe/John is like, “oh btw, my name is John. I was in an accident awhile ago and had amnesia, but I’ve been better for like, a year now, just didn’t feel like telling anyone. Even my best friend, Mr. Browning—thought it was best to just hang out on this island with a senile old fisherman instead. Oh, almost forgot! Hoho, silly me. I’m also your cousin. Your Grandfather’s been sick with worry about my disappearance, but for some reason I’ll never explain, I decided to just let him freak out while I hung out on his island.” Chapter Fourteen: Everybody’s Birthday Everyone is thrilled that Joe/John is their cousin and that the shock of the discovery didn’t kill Grandfather, and they name the island ‘Surprise Island,’ which everyone thinks is SO CLEVER, and then they eat. I don’t want to ruin the story by describing in detail every thing they ate, but unfortunately Gertrude wasn’t so thoughtful. Chapter Fifteen: Good-bye Summer Joe/John (he continues to call himself Joe even though now we know his real name) announces to the children that they are no longer allowed in the cave full of Indian artifacts, because skilled archeologists (himself, and probably his drinking buddies) are needed to ‘properly’ excavate the site. By blowing the whole top of with dynamite of course. Benny is seriously pissed to be denied a dynamite experience, and for the first time acts his age—by throwing himself on the ground and throwing a fit. The rest of the chapter is a boring and unnecessary trip to look at lobster traps. The one bright spot is—as always—Grandfather and his mysterious puppet-master ways. Why can’t the children go in the Yellow House? What ‘plans’ is he cooking up for them next? see more Boxcar Children reviews at rampantreads.wordpress.com

  2. 4 out of 5

    Juli

    The story of the Boxcar Children continues with Surprise Island. The kids have grown accustomed to their new life with their grandfather. But sometimes they miss the days where they had adventures and lived on their own in an abandoned boxcar. So their grandfather has a surprise for them. They get to spend the summer on an island he owns! They have adventures....meet a new friend....and make some cool discoveries! Another cute story in this children's adventure series! While enjoying this story, The story of the Boxcar Children continues with Surprise Island. The kids have grown accustomed to their new life with their grandfather. But sometimes they miss the days where they had adventures and lived on their own in an abandoned boxcar. So their grandfather has a surprise for them. They get to spend the summer on an island he owns! They have adventures....meet a new friend....and make some cool discoveries! Another cute story in this children's adventure series! While enjoying this story, I had to smile. The adult in me kept wanting to think "oh my gosh, this is just not safe!'' But the kid still lurking in me was like "Woo Hoo! A whole summer vacation on an island! SO MUCH FUN!!'' So, I firmly told the adult in me to shut up. It's a children's story....let the kids have fun! :) I listened to the audio book version of this story. Narrated by Tim Gregory, the audio (Oasis Audio) is just over 2.5 hours long. Gregory reads at a nice pace and does a great acting job, even with the children's voices. There are also some sound effects here and there. Nice listening experience! I like listening to these stories while doing house or yard work because they are happy, innocent and just fun. Brain candy! :) Surprise Island was published in 1949. It is a little bit dated, but not badly enough to hamper enjoyment of the story. Nineteen books in this series were written by the original author, Gertrude Chandler Warner. More than 130 books have been added to the series by other writers with the newest book, Secret on the Thirteenth Floor, coming out in September 2019! I'm so curious how the newer books compare to the original series! I might have to skip around a bit and read some of the new books to see what I think. :) On to the next book in this series -- The Yellow House Mystery!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Morgan McGuire

    The first Boxcar Children book was classic and precious. My children love this sequel and the writing is good, but the plot / structure is disturbingly insane. Really, not that cuddly madcap Nesbit/Lewis kind of insane that you can get away with in a children's book. Why does the grandfather leave them alone on an island with a strange man? That's just creepy. Every time that mystery Joe takes little Violet down to the shack for a private violin lesson I freak out. The children almost drown, trap The first Boxcar Children book was classic and precious. My children love this sequel and the writing is good, but the plot / structure is disturbingly insane. Really, not that cuddly madcap Nesbit/Lewis kind of insane that you can get away with in a children's book. Why does the grandfather leave them alone on an island with a strange man? That's just creepy. Every time that mystery Joe takes little Violet down to the shack for a private violin lesson I freak out. The children almost drown, trapped in a cave filling with water at high tide. I didn't need to read that before bed time, and I'm 37 years old. They eat bread and milk at every meal as if it is some kind of religious rite (literature students solemnly inform me that this symbolizes communion; I think that it is a super sketchy diet.)

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kellyn Roth

    Read so many of this series eons ago ... never got through most of 'em, though!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Greg

    This is an enjoyable enough children's story where four siblings are permitted to spend their summer holidays living in an old barn on an island, supervised - from afar - by an old fisherman and a young handy man with a mysterious past. Themes apparent in the novel's predecessor, The Boxcar Children - the practicality and (relative) independence of the children, the sexual division of labour and the extent to which the kids co-operate on various tasks (which I remarked upon in my review of t This is an enjoyable enough children's story where four siblings are permitted to spend their summer holidays living in an old barn on an island, supervised - from afar - by an old fisherman and a young handy man with a mysterious past. Themes apparent in the novel's predecessor, The Boxcar Children - the practicality and (relative) independence of the children, the sexual division of labour and the extent to which the kids co-operate on various tasks (which I remarked upon in my review of that book) - are repeated here. However, the practical advice given in the earlier book (e.g. about hygiene and fire safety) is not as evident. Something of the time it was written in (Surprise Island was first published in 1949) is indicated about the surprise the children had about how much knowledge Joe had when, as Violet put it, he is just 'just a handy man', Henry also commenting at one point that 'Joe is a very strange handy man, to know the names of the different kinds of seaweed'. The idea that a knowledgeable person might want to work as a handy man or casual labourer, even if only for a short while, betrays the author's social class bias (although this is also indicated by the wealth of the children's family). The story had added interested for me as the children make an interesting discovery on the island. (view spoiler)[While exploring a cave they find artefacts left behind by the island's prehistoric Amerindian population. They also discover a shell midden. When they mention these to Joe the handy man he takes great interest in the finds and helps them dig a hole into the midden to reveal more artefacts and also human bones. As an archaeologist, I grimaced at this! Apart from Joe's taking a couple of photos of the midden with one of the kids for scale, there was no attempt at recording what was found or of the site's stratigraphy! However, to mitigate this archaeological damage, Joe does convince the children to leave the site alone. Later, when it is revealed (among other things) that Joe is a museum curator who had lost his memory (and so had needed time to recuperate on the island), he states that he will have a team over to the island to conduct archaeological excavations at the site. This is good but I laughed at the suggestion that dynamite would be used to blow up the roof of the cave so as to allow the excavators easier access to its interior! Not only would the explosion likely damage the stratigraphy and artefacts beneath the floor of the cave, it would destroy information about the cave itself, which was after all an integral part of the site! It was strange that once Joe recovered his memory that he did not immediately contact his uncle - the children's grandfather - to say that he was alright. I can understand the need for him to take it easy for a while but to leave his uncle wondering what had happened to him seemed cruel. Similarly, it was also strange that the kids had no knowledge about their cousin or that he had gone missing, and that their grandfather would have been worried about him. I don't think this aspect of the plot had been well thought through. (hide spoiler)] It's funny how, with children's books, I sometimes come across words I've never encountered before. In this case, I was pleased to learn a new word derived from eighteenth-century Narragansett - 'quahog' - which is a type of edible clam found along the east coast of North America. In conclusion, kids should enjoy reading this book because I'm sure many of them would love to emulate the independence experienced by the children in the novel as well as share their explorations and discoveries on the island, and also because of the mystery surrounding the handy man. Nostalgic adults might enjoy it too!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Devann

    I was absolutely obsessed with these books when I was younger and decided last year that I was going to slowly reread them. Very slowly apparently as I think I read the first one 4 or 5 months ago. Anyway, these first two are definitely not standing up to the memories I had of them, but they are also the only books not to have 'mystery' in the title and the mystery part is what I remember the most, so I guess these are like the warm-up books and then she settles into a pattern later. These books I was absolutely obsessed with these books when I was younger and decided last year that I was going to slowly reread them. Very slowly apparently as I think I read the first one 4 or 5 months ago. Anyway, these first two are definitely not standing up to the memories I had of them, but they are also the only books not to have 'mystery' in the title and the mystery part is what I remember the most, so I guess these are like the warm-up books and then she settles into a pattern later. These books are incredibly simplistic and even ridiculous at times but I think that is 1. because they are for a very young age group and 2. they were written so long ago. If this was a more recent book I would accuse it of trying to glorify the ~good old days~ [that we all know were never really that great to begin with] but since it was actually written during that time I suppose I will let it slide. I'll admit my eye does twitch a bit at all the old-fashioned gender roles here, but I'm mostly running on childhood nostalgia. Although seriously could we have something a bit more complex than 'girls cook while boy builds things'? This is why I'm impatient for the mysteries to start lol. And speaking of 'girls cook', at least half of this book is spent talking about the food they eat and how they make it. I guess this book was written for children who had just come out of rationing during WWII and parents who lived through the Great Depression so it makes sense in a way but also THESE KIDS ARE FILTHY RICH WHY ARE THEY EATING LIKE THIS?? Multiple times they just sit down and eat a piece of bread soaked in some milk. AND THAT'S THE ENTIRE MEAL. That's not a full meal. That's not even ...any kind of meal, but definitely not like a full and adequate supper. I GUESS I could accept someone eating that for breakfast because it's almost just an awful version of cereal but ...seriously? Another time they literally just eat peas. Peas are a side dish. Where is the rest of your meal???? One time they have what sounds like the worst apple pie ever for dinner. CHILDREN, YOU NEED PROPER NUTRITION WHAT ARE YOU DOING??? At one point Violet puts raw eggs and sugar in a bottle of milk and they're all like 'mmm how delicious'... ????????????? Truly I don't know how to handle all this weird food information. Along with the weird focus on food, the rest of the plot is pretty much just a rehashing of the first book as well. I mean they're living in a barn instead of a boxcar but it's the same basic set up and it literally ends with them discovering another missing relative. HOW MANY PEOPLE IN YOUR FAMILY ARE MISSING??? I guess she did wait like fifteen years between books so that kind of explains it but still, come on. But really all of this just serves to make it hilarious and if you've read it as a child I would definitely recommend taking another look at it as an adult just to be like 'what in the world' if nothing else.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    Another fun read aloud with my kids. There were a couple things we had to talk about (the terminology “Indian” and what that means now) but overall as fun and magical as I remember from when I was a kid.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    I decided to read one of the Boxcar Children books after reminiscing about them with a colleague. Turns out, they are pretty strange from an adult perpective. When I was a kid, I thought it would be great to be as self-sufficient as these kids. As an adult, I'm thinking, "What, you let your grandkids live on an island for the summer with nobody but some stranger who lost his memory?!" But still, they're good books. It was fun to take a trip down memory lane with this group of resourceful youngin I decided to read one of the Boxcar Children books after reminiscing about them with a colleague. Turns out, they are pretty strange from an adult perpective. When I was a kid, I thought it would be great to be as self-sufficient as these kids. As an adult, I'm thinking, "What, you let your grandkids live on an island for the summer with nobody but some stranger who lost his memory?!" But still, they're good books. It was fun to take a trip down memory lane with this group of resourceful youngins'.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ellen

    This is fine. Not as likable as the first one, but still enjoyable. My friend Anna and I had a debate about whether the children are perfect. She wins this round because Benny does have a little fight with a friend and throws a tantrum. But other than that, they are perfect children. 2019 challenge: a book with a two-word title

  10. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    (All I could think was that Grandfather would get arrested if he let his grandkids spend a summer alone on an island a couple generations in the future.) My kids really liked this and I did too. I love when childhood favorites are still fun as an adult.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Cait S

    Holy racism Batman. My nostalgic journey with this series has come to an ABRUPT end. Excuse me. I'll just stick with Babysitter's Club.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Truman

    My favorite part was when they visited the island and they made a museum. And also that it was everybody's birthday.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Joan

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I picked up this arc at an ALA conference. I'm not sure I've read them before, just paged through them some. It is a pleasant book but nothing all that memorable. I can see why the series would have been popular since it is about fantasy days when everything was perfect and the worst thing that might happen would be not getting a temporary desire met (in this story Benny throws a howling fit when he didn't get a desire met). The mystery seemed a bit heavy handed: LOOK THERE IS A MYSTERY ABOUT TH I picked up this arc at an ALA conference. I'm not sure I've read them before, just paged through them some. It is a pleasant book but nothing all that memorable. I can see why the series would have been popular since it is about fantasy days when everything was perfect and the worst thing that might happen would be not getting a temporary desire met (in this story Benny throws a howling fit when he didn't get a desire met). The mystery seemed a bit heavy handed: LOOK THERE IS A MYSTERY ABOUT THIS GUY! but it was pleasant. Mind you, I wouldn't classify this as a mystery since the kids did no work trying to solve the mystery. I did notice that no one ever said why the guy disappeared to begin with, just that he wanted to be sure that he was well now. I doubt I'll pick up any more of the series to read unless I come across another arc while tidying my books up. Pleasant enough but forgettable.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jordan

    Another fun kids’ adventure built around independence and outdoor living and exploration. I can definitely see where the idea of living with your siblings on your own island for a summer would fire the imaginations of young readers. My five-year old daughter certainly enjoyed me reading to her as a bedtime story. Some fun surprises (for the kids) thrown in as well. As with the first Boxcar Children, not necessarily a lot here for an adult reader, but it’s enjoyable enough.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Trisha Priebe

    I enjoyed this simple summer read with my two boys. They now talk endlessly about how much they'd enjoy time alone on an island—can't say I blame them. I appreciate how much this book celebrated hard work and a child's ability to cook, clean, innovate, and explore independently and successfully. I asked my sons if they were ready to move on to another series. Nope. Time for book #3.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ashton Noel

    I enjoyed the first book much more than this one. Was also very confused and had to research. Apparently the first book I read was the original print from the 20s and they changed the children's last names from Cordyce to Arden in the reprint in the 40s and all of the books after. Very confusing. The first book was just a much more fun adventure to go on whereas this one I found rather boring.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    These books are ridiculous. I know they’re for children and quite old but lol. Also, this one was a race to see if I could read the entire thing while my roommate was at target. I did it. Such short, easy reads. Their adventures are somewhat ridiculous but I wouldn’t mind going to Surprise Island for a week or so.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Anne

    The writing can be very silly and simplistic, but it's very interesting to read at the end of the book, if you have the hardcover published in 1949 or 1950, Gertrude Chandler Warner's notes about her book. The children are portrayed as having a ready interest in the natural world around them and it is not surprising that the book is actually seventy years ago.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Becky

    Classic kid's story. I love that the kids get the freedom to have adventures with minimal adult interference. What wonderful wish fulfillment. It even made me want to try seafood - something I'm never interested in.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie ((Strazzybooks))

    Read with an intermediate student. I used to love the Boxcar Children!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Read aloud to my four year old. Fun for everyone.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Howard

    Listened to this one on audio with the kiddos today. I remember why I loved these so much as a kid — how delightful to get to live in a barn all summer without adult supervision! 🙂

  23. 4 out of 5

    Cooper

    Of all the Boxcar Children book titles that could also be salad dressings, this is the second most so.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ilisie Matei

    It was OK. I liked really much the story and its one of my favourite books. 📚

  25. 4 out of 5

    Leah

    This takes place during summer on their grandfather's island. They spend the summer living in a barn. There is fishing, gardening, hiking, swimming, a cave, a museum, a missing person. The mystery was secondary but still interesting.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Diane

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I'm enjoying reading these books as an adult for the sake of nostalgia. Of course there are issues within the story that I find now as an adult that I didn't as a child. This is a children's series, but fun nonetheless! An island, basically to yourselves as children? Sign me up haha. If you're an adult reading these, it may help to keep in mind that these books are very dated and they're for children. I feel that so long as you keep those two factors in mind, you can appreciate these for what th I'm enjoying reading these books as an adult for the sake of nostalgia. Of course there are issues within the story that I find now as an adult that I didn't as a child. This is a children's series, but fun nonetheless! An island, basically to yourselves as children? Sign me up haha. If you're an adult reading these, it may help to keep in mind that these books are very dated and they're for children. I feel that so long as you keep those two factors in mind, you can appreciate these for what they were meant for!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kris

    As an adult revisiting an old favorite, I still love the story of the characters fending for themselves on an island. However, I found the writing dated and less than enjoyable. It was very stilted.

  28. 4 out of 5

    LadybugGirl

    It was awsome!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Irene

    I am really loving this series! This book has all four children equally represented, and I feel we do get to know them a little better. I probably should not have read any of the books out of order; this being the second in the series, it makes sense that this book would have more character development than some of the later books, when the kids are already established characters. Here, we learn that Violet is artistic (she likes to paint and she has a gift for music), Jessie really is a great co I am really loving this series! This book has all four children equally represented, and I feel we do get to know them a little better. I probably should not have read any of the books out of order; this being the second in the series, it makes sense that this book would have more character development than some of the later books, when the kids are already established characters. Here, we learn that Violet is artistic (she likes to paint and she has a gift for music), Jessie really is a great cook (she makes clam chowder and whips up an apple pie) and likes order (she likes to plan out their days and keep to a schedule), and Henry is quite handy (he builds cabinets and tables out of scrap wood) and has an interest in academia (he likes museums). True, they all stick pretty close to age and gender roles... But that's okay, the book was written in 1949 after all. (Another detail that dates this book is an illustration in which the kids are boating without life jackets!) But what I really liked - and for this reason I would give this book 4 1/2 stars if I could - is that Benny actually throws a tantrum in this book! Finally! The kids are not all super well-behaved all the time! Haha. Maybe it was nice, too, that it was clear that Benny's fit was not a result of his being "bad", but more of just an age-related issue; Henry said, "He will stop some time. Some day he'll grow up." If only I could be so matter-of-fact about my kids' tantrums! There was also another child character, a friend of Benny's named Mike, who was loud and obnoxious. Benny liked him because they had fun together, but the older kids didn't think he was so great to have around. Even though the Alden kids are almost perfect, it was still nice to see that other less-than-perfect kids also lived in their world. :P I also liked that this book finally made me understand why people always run out to buy bread and milk before a big storm. It probably stems from the old days, depicted in these books, when bread and milk really were food staples. Whole meals could be had by just eating bread with milk poured on top! As Jessie said, "We have to buy bread and bottles of milk. Then we could live, even if we didn't have anything else to eat." As usual, the kids are models of resourcefulness. Besides the bread and milk, they eat food they gather themselves - though it helped that Grandfather started a vegetable garden for them in anticipation of their stay. Still, even though Grandfather is rich and the kids basically get whatever they want, they love taking care of themselves in the barn on the island! I love their attitude, summed up when Jessie said, "This is what I like. Everything seems better when we have to work to get it." I have to admit, I didn't give this book 5 stars because the whole story about Joe was just a little contrived. I liked the ending, of course, but really, why didn't he just go back to his uncle as soon as he could?! The idea of not returning until he was 100% recovered seemed to put a bit too much emphasis on independence, which perhaps was a highly valued quality in individuals in 1949. It was interesting, too, that this book didn't actually use the word "mystery" - Joe's unknown origin was just like a question always hanging around in the background. I wonder if the author sort of just found herself falling into writing "mysteries" simply because having unanswered questions helped to keep a story interesting.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ben

    Gertrude Chandler Warners novel Surprise Island realistic fiction book is exciting. I liked the book because they went to an island and explored and had to live in a barn at the island. The main characters were Henry, Benny, Jessie, and violet. Henry is the oldest then Jessie, then violet, then Benny. They had to figure out why the handy man knew so much about the island. You would like it if you like mystery books.

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