The Boxcar Children is the first book in the Boxcar Children series. It was written by Gertrude Chandler Warner, and first published in 1924 and republished with edits in 1942. It was turned into a movie as well. The most recent printings of the book are based on the 1942 edition.
The Boxcar Children tells the story of four children, Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny, who are orphans. One night, they take shelter in a bakery after buying some bread with the little cash they have. In exchange for allowing them to spend the night, they agree to help around the bakery. However, when they overhear the baker's plans for them, they flee. (In the original 1924 edition, they flee after overhearing that they will be sent to their grandfather, whom they believe would treat them cruelly. In the 1942 edition, they overhear the baker planning to keep the older three siblings but to take Benny to a children's home.)
Finding an abandoned boxcar, the children start a new life of independence. Henry ends up working various odd jobs in a nearby city for a young doctor (Dr. McAllister in the 1924 edition, Dr. Moore in later editions), in order to earn money for food. He also does gardening for the doctor's mother. In one case, she let him take home some parsnips and carrots he had picked because they were too small. The children's lives are pleasant and full of hard work until Violet becomes ill and they go to the doctor for assistance.
Earlier in the novel, the doctor read in the newspaper that a man named James Henry Alden (James Henry Cordyce in the 1924 edition) was offering a $5,000 reward for anyone who located his four lost grandchildren. They had run away because they thought he was cruel. After the doctor takes the sick Violet and the other children to his house, he finally contacts their grandfather. He arrives at the doctor's house. Not wanting to frighten the children into running away again, he does not reveal his full name. Not knowing that he was their "cruel" grandfather, the children warm to his kindness and are surprised but delighted when they eventually discover he is their grandfather. After moving in with him, James moves the boxcar to his backyard for their enjoyment.