A childhood favorite to pass down
The librarian at my school growing up was my Aunt, Sue. She knew exactly what book to recommend to children based on their interest, reading level, and temperament. When you finally had your feet under you as a reader, she knew the right chapter book for you and at the same time still encouraged you to read picture books. This balance felt just right developmentally in elementary school, when playing on the swings is just as necessary as talking about who you have a crush on.
Auntie Sue gave me The Boxcar Children to take home and read at the end of second grade. And then I consistently checked it out for the next two years before getting my own copy. The bookmark that served as my library card was filled with "The Boxcar Children" hand written in her distinctive script. I have read it over 100 times. It's safe to say that it remains one of my favorite books.
Four siblings find themselves on the run and in need of a home after their parents die. Since the book is intended for a young audience, you don't get a lot of preamble about how they've gotten themselves in this situation. Instead we focus on the personalities of the children, and how they solve the immediate problems that face them: where to sleep when there's a rainstorm, how to keep milk cold while living in the woods, and how to cook for themselves.
I can recall endless games wherein I was orphaned and my imaginary brothers & sisters and I were stranded somewhere, or on the run from something, and had to find a safe place to stay. We would have to figure out the business of living on our own: finding beds to sleep on, dishes to eat with, and a way to gather food. I loved this particular aspect of the book, and was fascinated with the idea of going to a dump to find old dishes to use, and I desperately wanted a pink cup like the one Benny finds.
I read the book to my daughter when she was in first grade and then she read it several times when her feet got under her. Now that the book is celebrating 75 years, we are reading it again and this time my son is also listening along. I love passing down some of my favorite books to them and I hope they will do the same with the children in their lives.