This prelude slips neatly into the classic series with a rural idyll that comes to a sudden, tragic end.
Spring brings not only fresh rounds of games and chores (“Chores are fun,” says Meg) for the four Alden children, but new friends too after the Clark family—fleeing frequently mentioned “hard times” in the city—arrives in a storm to stay until their car can be repaired. Indulging occasionally in foreshadowing and artfully incorporating details that will figure in later events, MacLachlan chronicles encounters and minor adventures on the farm in simple, straightforward language. The season changes, the children put on a summer circus, and the Clarks depart at last with a fond “[n]ot good-bye.” Then comes an offstage auto accident that orphans Henry, Jessie, Violet and Benny and forces them to flee the farm even before the funeral lest they be separated. “The four lambs were on their way.” Interest in the classic Boxcar Children Mysteries remains strong, and this prequel should find eager readers.
An approachable lead-in that serves to fill in the background both for confirmed fans and readers new to the series. (finished illustrations, afterword and resource list not seen) (Historical fiction. 8-10)