It’s been a crazy time here at the Crabtree house.
Two weeks ago, we watched our oldest graduate from high school, and next week, we leave for college. But, this week is all about another member of this clan.
Sandwiched here amid all the craziness – much like his place as the middle child of our family – is a celebration for son number two, the incomparable, funny, compassionate, and socially conscious Braden.
This week, we proudly watch as he ends his middle school chapter, and prepares to start a new journey as a high school student.
Eighth grade promotion is also a symbolic moving on: a bridge to cross, leaving behind the last vestiges of childhood, and embracing the path to adulthood.
As we look back across the first half of that bridge, there are countless moments that defined the person Braden is evolving into. His disappointments, triumphs, failures, and successes have all stewed together to create the life experience that is uniquely his.
Of course, being who I am, at each moment, there has been a book close by. Whether learning to sound out his first words, reading together, or, on occasion, forcing him to read on his own, many meaningful journeys have been taken through the turning of the page.
Here are some of his favorite volumes from his life thus far…as the young readers in your life celebrate their own milestones, and inevitably begin their own new journeys, perhaps one of these will become one of their favorites as well.
The early reading days took us on trips around the world, and through history, courtesy of Mary Pope Osborne’s “Magic Tree House” series. Whether meeting “Dolphins at Daybreak,” catching “High Tide in Hawaii,” or meeting the “Knight at Dawn,” each book takes readers, along with brother and sister adventurers, Jack and Annie, on a new adventure.
Through the magic of time travel, they are able to experience important points in history, such as the Civil War, or the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. This series, along with its accompanying information guides is a great way to expose kids to historically significant events, and is a mainstay in early independent reading, as the more than 50 books can heartily attest!
The middle reading years brought books that taught important social lessons. “The Invention of Hugo Cabret,” by Brian Selznick taught the importance of tenacity. Filled with beautiful illustrations, the book tells the story of a young orphan living in a train station in Paris. Determined to repair a mechanical man his father had built, in hopes of uncovering a secret message, he crosses paths with an old toymaker whom he has been stealing parts from. Along the way, he solves another mystery, and the two become each other’s salvation.
“Wonder,” by R.J. Palacio, taught about compassion. Auggie, born with severe craniofacial anomalies, has always been homeschooled, so as to shelter him from the cruelty of other children. In fifth grade, however, he finally dives into a mainstream school. Facing the stares, and fielding the barbs, he begins to make friends, and shows everyone that he is a lot more than his crooked face. Readers learn about kindness and acceptance, and that being different is not a detriment.
“The Boy in the Striped Pajamas,” by John Boyne taught us both the devastating consequences of hatred, and also the beauty of pure friendship. Bruno’s father is a high-ranking Nazi, assigned to work at Auschwitz. Bruno befriends a boy from the “other side of the fence,” and together they question what is so different about them. Through a child’s eyes, we see the senselessness of such blind hate, while the story’s climax brings home the magnitude of the Holocaust’s tragedy.
I look forward to watching Braden cross the second half of this bridge, and hope that at each marker, there will be a good book at hand, ready to teach another important lesson.