Recap #337: The Boxcar Children: The Legend of the Howling Werewolf

Title: The Boxcar Children #148: The Legend of the Howling Werewolf

Summary: The Aldens are helping out at a harvest festival in a town at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. But something in the hills is scaring people away! Are the local rumors about a werewolf true?

Tagline: Something is roaming the hills under the full moon …

Initial Thoughts

Surprise! Happy blue moon!


It’s been a busy year — packing to move, moving, unpacking, dealing with the tree that fell on your new house, you know, the usual — but the second I saw this at my (new!) local library, I had to recap it in August.

Do I think there will actually be a werewolf? No, because I’ve read a Boxcar Children book before. (Though I had no idea they kept going this long, and longer still.) Am I delighted to read it? Yes, of course.

Werewolves of London Idaho assemble and away we goooooooooooooooo!


The entire premise of the Boxcar Children is that waaaay back in the very first book, four siblings — two brothers, two sisters — ran away rather than be sent off to live with their grandfather, a stranger who terrified them. They made an adorable home in a boxcar, grandfather found them and was really a good man, brought the boxcar to his mansion, now they have all sorts of adventures. Everyone up to speed? Good.

Our main characters!

Grandfather: Rich old man who adores his grandchildren and spoils them quite a bit.

Henry: 14-year-old brother, bit of a know-it-all, takes good care of his siblings, sometimes to their unhappiness.

Jessie: Who knows, she’s not introduced with the others. Guess we’re just supposed to know. (We do get an introduction several pages later: 12-year-old sister, loves animals.

Violet: 10-year-old sister, quiet and shy, very close to Grandfather, bit of a worrier. When she learns the buttes in Idaho are made from dormant volcanoes, she worries they’ll erupt though they’ve been dormant for thousands of years.

Benny: 6-year-old brother, exuberant and possibly far too clever for his age.

Watch: What team of child sleuths doesn’t have a pet dog these days? He’s a wire fox terrier.

Susan Riley: Grandfather’s friend whom they arrive to help. Indigenous, Shoshone-Bannock tribe, on the city council.

The Aldens come to save the day to help Susan put on Townsend’s very first Harvest Festival. 

This is a town that thrives on potatoes, sugar beets, and tourists. How the hell have they never held a Harvest Festival before?! 

Whatever, at least they’re having one now.

The children love projects and pitch right in. Jessie is clearly my favorite because the first thing she does is whip out a notebook to take notes. Girl after my own heart.

But all is not well in touristy Townsend town. A strange and upsetting rumor lingers that might drive everyone away from the evening parade.

What rumor, you ask, and I do too, as if we don’t already know.

Why, someone posted on their website that a werewolf lives near Townsend, sneaks into the town under the full moon, and now everyone’s afraid.


Second, the children are adorable. Violet in particular, who very quietly worries that werewolves do exist, even if Grandfather swears they don’t.

Susan shows them the website, which has cheerful jack-o’-lanterns and a video of a dancing sage grouse, the bird that made Townsend famous. Susan and Mayor Chang created the website together, but put in no controls over the comment section.

The comment: Beware. Danger. A mysterious event has occurred over the past months during each full moon. In the middle of the night, a person has been seen dashing along the ridge that overlooks town. Then, at the break in the trees, the moonlight is bright. In the moonlight, the figure bends down. And after a moment, it lets out a whimper, like a groan. When the figure stands back up, it has the head of a wolf, and it staggers until it is out of sight.

Benny’s thrilled that they have the chance to see a real, live werewolf. You and me both, kid. You and me both.

Grandfather again promises that werewolves are just a myth. People tell stories of them to try to explain things they don’t understand, but there’s never been real proof.

While they’re reading, a brand new comment appears.

SUSAN AND MAYOR CHANG, YOU HAVEN’T CLOSED COMMENTS BY NOW?! Women, you are failing yourselves.

The latest comment demands they cancel the festival because the werewolf threat is greater during a harvest moon.

I’d believe it. Love a good harvest moon.

(Yes, I considered holding this until the harvest moon at the end of September, but I was too impatient.)

Susan is very impressed by how the children listen and ask questions.

What’s a harvest moon? Moon during autumnal equinox, extra bright because the time it rises and how many days it looks full.

Are there real wolves: In the mountains. More coyotes near them, but they stay away from town. Wolves howl, coyotes yip. The howl of a wolf is a haunting sound, but they serve an important role in controlling the deer population and keeping the desert clean.

Why is someone trying to sabotage the festival and why use a werewolf? Question of the fucking year.

That night, a rustling sound outside their window wakes the children, and they sneak out, leaving the adults asleep. At the very least, they take Watch with them. Love you curious, courageous kids.

Though it’s not quite the full moon yet, it’s very bright out, and cold.

Watch smells something, tries to chase it, but Jessie keeps him leashed. Smart! He’s small enough a coyote could come for him. Or a mountain lion. Or a werewolf.

They find no coyote, mountain lion, or werewolf. Instead they flush several sage grouse, deal with Benny’s disappointment that there was no werewolf (me too, kid), and take themselves back to bed before the adults wake and worry about them.

Violet continues to worry that werewolves are real. If only we could be so lucky.

The next morning, they go to the festival grounds to join Grandfather and Susan. There, they meet Daniel (tall, skinny, dark hair and skin), who mentions them seeing their first sage grouse the night before.

How does he know? Why, Susan told him, of course.

… except the kids slept in and haven’t talked to her yet.

They call him out. He immediately folds in front of this ferocious foursome. He’s a biologist, loves sage grouse, and was out walking the night before. When they startled the birds into flight, he ran to check on them. The population is dying fast because of all the farming, activity, and noise.

The city council wants to provide incentives for farming and growth, because the town’s hurting for money, but that does a great deal of harm to the local environment. 

Why are we afraid of werewolves when humans do an excellent job of destroying everything ourselves?

Benny wonders if Daniel’s the werewolf. He’s tall, skinny, and he likes walking around at night.

Better logic than I’ve seen in some werewolf stories, Benny.

Except werewolves aren’t real, Jessie swears, just like Grandfather.

They don’t need to worry about whether Daniel is a werewolf. They need to worry about why the hell he lied to them.

Which is a very good point.

At the park, the kids immediately get busy. Henry, a pre-teen mechanical genius, fixes a leaking fountain. The others meet Ellen and her super protective dog. (And her weird ass shoes that have toes. Do not want.) She’s planning a fun run, and they set to work. Benny helps hang fliers about a fun run. (We are a handful of days away from the festival and you’re only now putting up fliers?! What would you do if these kids stayed home for once?) Violet and Jessie set flags at the finish line.

The super protective dog, Kamu, eventually makes friends with Watch. They’re both rescue dogs. Kamu was found near a river and is terrified of water. They think he nearly drowned and that’s why he doesn’t even like to get his paws wet.

Poor rescue dogs. They carry a lot of life with them, and you don’t always know if it’s good or bad, or what happened. Monster Dog is a rescue, and we suspect something happened in the three years before I adopted her that made her hate other dogs, but who knows what. My dad used to think she was used as a bait dog before dog fights. It’s possible.

Now Benny thinks Kamu might be the werewolf. Or the werewolf’s best friend.

Benny, I fucking love you. That’d be a fun twist, the werewolf is a doggo. Or a doggo is the werewolf’s best friend.

Next the kids help Susan set up for the jack-o’-lantern carving contest. No pumpkins, but sugar beets! (I want to attend this festival immediately. So many of my favorite things turn up at small town harvest festivals.)

The festival isn’t for two days, but the sugar beet carving occurs later that day. They’ll be judged during the festival proper.

Unfortunately, they find pumpkins and sugar beets smashed to hell inside the barn. Bales of hay torn open, fliers shredded.

They decide that whoever leaves the comments must have sabotaged the decorations and supplies to stop the festival from happening so that all the people are safe from the werewolf.

Well, that’s one theory of sabotage, I suppose.

Benny finds deep claw marks. Even Henry admits they look strange and inhuman.

While they ponder why a werewolf would attack pumpkins and sugar beets instead of, you know, animals, a volunteer joins them. He tells them someone just wants to keep everyone safe, but runs off before Susan comes looking for them.

The kids find the few whole sugar beets, make new signs, help set for the competition as if nothing was wrong.

Benny quickly realizes that his werewolf claw marks are actually drag marks from a rake. Aww, kid, I’m sad too.

When they’re done cleaning, they finally get to have fun, carving sugar beets, exploring the festival grounds. They don’t stay too long, though.

Daniel isn’t in his yard when they pass this time. His wheelbarrow is tipped over, soil bags torn open. Violet worries about him, but Jessie’s certain that he simply went to run an errand.

Back at Susan’s house, they see a crouched figure heading up the path behind the house, and immediately set out to follow them.

I love you weirdo, adventurous children.

After awhile, they stop next to a stream to take a break. Find bootprints in the mud, and barefoot prints, and big doggo prints that — waaait a minute, they disappear! And then there are barefoot prints!


Watch drags them after a scent, until they find a clearing with bones and antlers spread across black stones. A big man gathers them into a sack. He has a full beard, dark, wavy hair to his shoulders, and hairy arms.

Watch barks and scares him off. 

Benny doesn’t think the man is the werewolf, he thinks the man is related to the werewolf and is cleaning up after a meal.

Benny. Benny Benny Benny. Benny. You suggested a dog was a werewolf, but not the extremely hairy man picking up bones who runs away when he sees people? REALLY?

Kid. You were doing so well.

(Also: Dude? He’s a hottie!)

That night, howling wakes the children from a deep sleep. They see the silhouette of someone staggering along the ridge. Someone with a wolf head. Something that tips back its head and howls at the moon.

Benny’s thrilled, of course. Violet’s scared. Even Jessie and Henry are starting to wonder if maybe werewolves are actually real.

(I wish. #needsmorewerewolves)

Daniel ignores them when they try to say hello the next morning. None of them know why. Maybe he’s tired from howling all night.

Several volunteers quit because they spent all night listening to the werewolf howl and now they and their kids are afraid.

You are grown. ass. adults. Adults who made a commitment to volunteering. What the fuck are you doing, cutting out now? Why do you even believe in werewolves when half of these children don’t?!

Even the volunteers who don’t immediately quit give Susan an ultimatum: If they hear the werewolf one more night, they’ll force Mayor Chang to cancel the entire festival.

Mayor Chang has excellent timing, and rocks up to reassure everyone that nothing is wrong, people are safe, and they absolutely must have the festival or the entire town will die, DIE I SAY. (Okay, that last bit might be me adding color.)

The adults argue and talk and finally decide to wait and see what happens that night.

… you know, exactly what they did and decided before the mayor showed up, why is this treated as a brand new thing?

Still, one good thing comes out of the repetition: Henry thinks he knows why Daniel was upset.

That afternoon, the kids gather to sleuth it up while they wait for the full moon to rise that night. 


Daniel the conservationist. Nice, but a liar and unfriendly that morning. Is he uncomfortable seeing them because he was in the woods tricking them? Or is he embarrassed for being caught out late at night chasing birds? (He’s a conservationist. I doubt it.)

Strange Guy With Beard and Hairy Arms. Creepy, collecting bones and antlers. Otherwise a complete mystery. (And hot, so very very hot.)

Whoever smashed the pumpkins and sugar beats. 

Kamu, Ellen’s giant dog.

… I love that you’re trying, young sleuths, but you’ve got nothing.

Off to find clues!

Grandfather and Susan are nowhere to be found (like I said, they’re friends), so the kids head up to the ridge to look for clues. On the way, they run into Ellen and Kamu who are still setting up the race path.

When they reach the clearing from before, they find the bones and antlers missing and the ground brushed with pine branches to clear something away.

Suspicious. Strange Guy With Beard and Hairy Arms and Creepy Bone and Antler Collection shoots up the suspect list. (So. hot.)

They do find footprints. Benny thinks they are from bare feet at first, but there’s a logo right in the middle of them.

Why, it’s almost like someone walked there who had weird ass shoes with toes and a logo on the bottom.

And to be fair to the kids, they are right there with me! They rush down to talk to Ellen. They no longer believe there’s a werewolf, they think someone is pretending to be a werewolf.

Not just someone. HER!

(I love these fucking kids.)

She’s terribly embarrassed, but she likes to run at night and sometimes she has to carry Kamu over the wet spots.

…like, you know, a hunched figure with a wolf head.

This is so fucking cute.

Ellen swears she had never heard the werewolf rumor before, was shocked when people told her about it at the festival prep. She didn’t say anything because she was worried she’d get in trouble. The trail is supposed to be closed for safety reasons, but she refused to listen. Plus she filled the holes that made it dangerous, cleared away fallen rocks. It’s perfectly fine now.

Silhouette and Kamu are checked off their list of suspects now that they know what people see as the werewolf, but they still don’t know who is spreading the rumor.

And whoever it is hasn’t stopped. A new comment appears, with a video this time. It says a werewolf scared off sage grouse, and the video even includes growling.

Watch growling.

Watch is also the werewolf.

And they know only one person who was out that night with them: Daniel the conservationist.

They postpone dinner in favor of talking to Daniel immediately. They still have that night to save the festival.

Daniel admits he made the first werewolf comment because he knows people are superstitious and would run with it. Posted the video of Watch growling to help scare people even more.

He’s worried about the animals around town, but knows he went about this all wrong. Apologizes to Susan several times. 

Mayor Chang is supposed to make a big announcement at the festival, and he’s afraid it’s about more development that will continue to damage nature. Instead of focusing on farming, they should protect the birds, which already bring tourists to town.

He tried to talk to Mayor Chang about it, but couldn’t reach her and she never returned his messages.

Grandfather and Susan head back to the house to do some damage control, as will Daniel.

The kids, meanwhile, wander on their own for awhile until they remember there’s still a part of the mystery to go: They know the werewolf, they know the comments, but who destroyed the supplies in the barn and why in the world is that hairy (hot) dude collecting bones and running away from Watch barking?

They do a big circle and return to Daniel’s house. They thought the damage was partially done with a rake and, wouldn’t you know it, Daniel has a rake.

Now, this is completely logical, but it seems far too easy and I’m not a big fan of the only black man being the antagonist here. Still, there’s far more diversity in the book than I expected, and he has very good reason to do what he’s done.

The festival kicks off with no trouble in the morning, despite how freaked out everyone was mere hours before. Give it up for small town gossip chains, I guess?

Still, adorable.

Only one real thing to solve: Hairy man, bones, antlers, why.

They wander off to explore the festival and find themselves at a booth selling beautiful gifts, including a chess set where the white pieces are made of bones and the black pieces of lava.

Why, the owner wears flannel and has a beard. And familiar eyes. And, you know, things made of bones: OMG WE MET YOU BEFORE.

Cal is a different type of harvester. He collects things from the forest and the mountains and the desert. Processes the bones, daydreams designs, and makes beautiful things he sells to his neighbors and online. He ran off because he doesn’t have his permit to work on federal property, so teeeechnically he was breaking the law.

So, Cal, darling, when can I move in? Because you sound like a goddamn delight.

(He’s a fucking hottie!)

Later, Mayor Chang does not make her big announcement. Instead, she schedules a town hall so everyone has the chance to voice their opinion, and they can figure out ways to fund the town without fully destroying all the animal habitats.

All mysteries solved! All troubles addressed! Benny wants to return and search for Bigfoot!


Final Thoughts

I may shout (and shout and shout and shout) about #needsmorewerewolves, but this was fucking adorable. Very logically laid out, the child sleuths think things through, ask good questions, and test their theories, everyone had a reason for the things they did, they weren’t completely personality-less caricatures, and, like I said, a surprising amount of diversity!

I’ll read some more of their potentially supernatural mysteries, though I’m certain there will never actually be a supernatural explanation. It’s too, too cute to be terribly annoyed by that part.


Happy blue moon, all!