All of that changed when we got to book #20 in the series "The Haunted Cabin Mystery". There had been some very brief suggestions of an attic room possibly being haunted in a previous book, but these suggestions were dismissed quickly and thoroughly by the characters (rightly so!) as foolish notions. Hence, it caused no alarm in my young children, and no red flags in mine. "The Haunted Cabin," however, seemed to have a real shift in writing style as well as a change in the focus. No longer were my kids being invited to use their minds to solve a perplexing mystery, as much as they were being sent on an adrenaline rush to figure out who is the bad guy and just what will he do next?
This change in suspense and emphasis was so distinct and unwelcome that it caused me to do a bit of research. As it turns out, only the first 19 books in the series were written by Gertrude Chandler Warner, and all of the subsequent books had varying authors. I felt this was a bit misleading since the book itself doesn't indicate there author has changed (I was unable to determine who the author of book #20 is by looking on the covers and inside pages). I felt it was important for me not to quit reading the book in the middle (leaving my children hanging in suspense and probably imagining much worse endings than the book laid out), but I read it all in a massive chunk to get it over with quickly. I also took a lot of small breaks in reading to discuss what was going on in the book, and to make little jokes to break up the intensity for their sakes. My son expressed displeasure at the book and didn't want to read any more "if they were going to be like that." He wanted them to be familiar, thought provoking and friendly, like the first 19 books had been. So did I.
There is something special as a parent when you find an author you can trust. There is something exciting when you see a whole shelf lined with upcoming reading material that you are certain your children will adore reading and discussing with you. There's something very disheartening about being let down by the facade of a front cover which doesn't warn you that you won't be reading the same timeless and lovely stories anymore. So, here's my bottomline: I highly recommend books 1-19 in this series. Books #20 and up are at your own discretion (as they all should be, but I add a cautionary note to these ones, as we had such a negative experience here and I want you to have pleasurable reading times with your children!).
In case you're interested, here's my ongoing list of keep/read vs. get rid of (donate):
#20 "The Haunted Cabin": get rid of- intense suspense concerning a 'bad guy' made unpleasant for my 7 yr. old
#21"The Deserted Library Mystery": get rid of (excerpt from page 9 below)
"Oooh," Benny whispered. "The house looks so lonely. Maybe ghosts live there when Pete is gone for the summer."
"Nonsense," Henry replied. "Let's go inside." He sounded cheerful, but secretly he agreed with Benny. There was something scary about this place. Henry glanced about. No one was in sight. He looked over his shoulder. He was sure something would happen here. There visit might not be as fun as everyone thought.
#25 "The Amusement Park Mystery": get rid of- the mystery is very easy to figure out and this book in particular portrays the Alden children as very independent of authority.
At one point (page 99) when they've witnessed something happen, Benny wants to tell the adult they are with, but Henry tells him he cannot because the adult may not let them go back to the amusement park (out of fear for their safety, but that is where the mystery is centered). I prefer books that foster a trust between the children and the loving, trustworthy adults, not an attitude of rebellion and pride in independence.
UPDATE on our "Series" Read Alouds:
We also began reading The American Adventure Series and have made it through 18 complete books with only 2 chapters having been deemed inappropriate due to intensity of action in one and unnecessary content in another. (That's 2 chapters out of approximately 252 read so far.. pretty good odds! If you want a heads up on the rough spots, check out my reviews from the series.) These books follow families (moving from characters to their children or grandchildren) through time, we get a historical fiction up close and personal ride from the Mayflower all the way through the US being established as a nation, onward to the Civil War... I love the added details about the time era that my kids are learning, such as how doctors once viewed ailments or injury treatments and have now learned differently, or how the whole family worked together when it came time to can sour kraut. Learning history that comes alive through characters engages them in a way that textbooks do not and their dramatic reenactments during play time assure me they've been listening & enjoying it.