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Endangered Series #1: The Boxcar Children

Popularity comes, popularity goes. As librarians we’re always balancing between what will circulate like crazy and what we need to have in the collection. And we’re not the Library of Congress – we can’t (and shouldn’t) keep everything.

An endangered series is one that appears to be waning in terms of popularity. But popularity isn’t everything. Should it stay, or should it go? Or think of it this way – if you were starting a library today, would this series make the cut? Let’s discuss.

Today’s candidate is…

The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner

The Case for Keeping:

Originally published in 1924, you can’t deny it has staying power. Also, there have been some recent additions to the series, and an animated film coming this summer, both of which may spark additional interest.

The Case for Not:

While more timeless than most, in 2014 it is showing age. The recent prequel (written by Patricia MacLachan) didn’t seem to catch on strongly.


Albert Whitman has published graphic novel adaptations of the first 18 books in the series.

There are also new paperback editions (above) and the aforementioned prequel (below).

My Verdict:

We’re keeping the start of the series, but trimming down many of the later installments.

What say you?

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.


  1. Janie Lampi says

    I agree, trim the series down. For some of my series which seem to be collecting more dust but are good, I will sometimes book talk them. I did this with some older lists of our state masterlist books. It can really pick up the circulation.

    • Travis Jonker says

      I agree about booktalking, Janie – that rekindles interest in a lot of cases. We have an annual Battle of the Books at my school and the first Boxcar is one of the titles included. There are usually a couple students who dip their toe into the series after that.

  2. It’s still circulating moderately well here, despite the fact that we have hardcover copies with terrible cover art. If it starts showing up on the weeding list in large quantities, I would probably do the same: trim down the upper end of the series, keeping the originals as long as possible.

  3. I’m weeding as we prep for inventory and have been thinking about this very topic! I finally let go of my Babysitters Club books, since they hadn’t circ’d at all in the last 5 years, despite Raina Telgemeier’s fantastic GN adaptations being very popular with my middle schoolers. I booktalked the heck out of them, but no luck.

    • Travis Jonker says

      Babysitters is coming up in this series, Sylvie – that’s another prime candidate there.

  4. Boxcar Children is still popular at our (public) library. Our approach is to keep fresh copies of the first 10 or so books in the series because many kids & families want to read it from the beginning. They’re classics. We have the paperbacks on standing order, but once they’re lost or damaged, I don’t bother to replace them. (Besides, The Clue in the Recycling Bin?! Let’s be serious!)

  5. The Boxcar Children is a strange one for me. The first book is a classic, a true classic; it’s also radically different from any of the other books in the series. I think I remember reading that Warner only intended it to be a one-off, and had to think of something else to do with the characters once it became very popular. I don’t think even the immediate sequels are that good, and a lot of the later ones are kind of awful.

    I would always keep the first one; it was voted one of the top 100 chapter books of all time two years ago by SLJ, and I think even if its readership isn’t incredibly large, it’s worth having in the collection. I’m not sure that argument applies for any of the others, and I wouldn’t feel obligated to keep them if circ doesn’t justify it.

    • It’s also worth noting, I think, that Warner only actually wrote the first 19 of them. The remaining 118(!) are all by other authors, and not generally by authors of Patricia MacLaughlin’s caliber.

      • Travis Jonker says

        Yes – thanks for mentioning that, Sam! And it’s amazing how long of a run the series had, isn’t it?

  6. Travis Jonker says

    Sam and Lisa – I’m with you on both of your thoughts.

  7. Parents and teachers still recommend them. I’ll keep them as long as they keep circulating.

  8. I vote keep them. I still circulate some books in the series about 7-15 times a year. I would actually get rid of Hardy Boys before Boxcar. No one reads those at my school, and I’ve never liked them, so I have trouble hyping them up.

  9. So happy to see you taking on this topic! Many on my list of not sure what to do with. Redwall, Hardy Boys, Berenstain Bears chapter books and Arthur chapter books are among the books in question. They are not getting the attention they used to.

  10. We definitely get requests for the first book, and I’ve had to buy several replacement copies. I weed later books if they show up on my reports, but I haven’t had many in the last few years.

  11. My (Public) library is in a very unique spot, we cannot keep Boxcars on the shelves, same with the original Hardy Boys. Our community is very focused on “clean reads” and they feel comfortable having their kids read books a long these lines. Many feel that old=clean, not always the case, but it is kind of the “law” here.
    Not to mention that in our community, the books tend to be read by several children during each checkout.


  1. […] importantly, what should be done with them as they age.  So far, Endagered Series has covered the Boxcar Children, the Hardy Boys, the American Girl franchise, and–oh, the pain–the Baby-Sitters Club. […]