Back during another lifetime in the 1970s you would have found me on Friday night sitting in front of our family television….the one where the knob had fallen off and we had to resort to using needle-nosed pliers to change it…patiently waiting for my favorite television show to air.
There I was – gazing up at the screen – watching a parade of commercials and happily munching on taco-flavored Doritos – then I would hear the theme song I can sing to this day and even if you won’t admit it, you can as well.
Here’s the story…of a lovely lady…who was bringing up three very lovely girls…All of them had hair of gold like their mother’s…the youngest one in curls.
Here’s the story…of a man named Brady…who was busy with three boys of his own…They were four men…living all together…yes, they were all alone.
I loved the Brady Bunch. They were different. They were not a cookie-cutter version of my very average family. Not everyone was related by blood, not everyone got along all the time, but there was a lot of love and acceptance. Take two families with former tragedy and throw in a dash of Alice and presto! An Instant American family I would have loved to be a part of.
Look around in any American classroom or neighborhood. We have more families with steps and halves and live-ins than ever before, and if you are like me you have often side-stepped an important facet of American History….our family history.
It’s easy to ignore these days , isn’t it?
I have had students who have their fair share of tragedy….parents on drugs, in jail, molestations, mental illness, a different uncle in the house every week or so, physical violence…a plethora of mixed families that make the Brady Bunch-type family impossible to achieve, so I can understand why educators might be leery of asking children to examine their families, to answer the question why their families are important, and to decide how their family fits into the American quilt even with all the baggage that sometimes accompanies family life these days.
But, how can we ask students to connect to a bunch of folks discussed in the study of history that they’ve never heard of and will never meet unless they can connect to how they fit in….how their family fits into our society no matter the baggage and no matter the circumstances?
A brand new book has dropped into my lap that I think would serve as a great reminder that families come in all shapes and forms. A family doesn’t necessary have to be a group of people all related by biology….they have to have things in common and those things bind us together in love.
The book I’m talking about is called The Gift. Its author and illustrator, Karen Craft, just happens to be my dear sister.
In The Gift, Karen tells the true story of Baby Boy who came to live with a family who wanted a little boy very much. The book covers numerous themes from family love, overcoming tragedy, and even an honest look at what makes the concept of family what it is and to be more precise what makes the concept of a mother….a mother.
As the first page of the book states, “A Mama isn’t just someone that gives birth to you. She’s someone that sits with you when you’re sick, and doesn’t mind. She’s the one who bakes you cookies late into the night, when you forgot to tell her earlier. She will clap louder than anyone at your piano recital. She reads your favorite book to you over and over. And over. She really listens to you when you need to talk and when you’re scared she makes you feel safe. She teaches you to be polite and chew with your mouth closed. She’s the last person you see when she kisses you good night, and the first person you want to see in the morning. You know in your heart that she’s your Mother, you Mom, your Mama. She’s your gift and you are hers. Sometimes biology just isn’t so important after all.”
The Gift is a great book to open the door to discuss adoption with students of all ages, to discuss blended families, to discuss losing a family member, and to discuss how non-family members….our friends and neighbors….are important parts of our families as well.
Children will love the story details regarding Da, Mama, Sister Dear, and Baby Girl. The story even has its own version of Alice in the guise of Nanni-K who in reality happens to be my dear niece.
It is a great resource for your classroom library, a media center, or a home library. Students, young and old, will love The Gift as a read aloud as they make Mother’s Day cards and presents, and the book lends itself well to small group reading activities for older students.
Karen Craft’s illustrations are brought to life even in more exact detail by artist Meghan Branscomb from Mornin’ Glory Studios. As you can see from the story illustrations I’ve scattered through this post they are exceptional and make the story even more entertaining. I’m already thinking about making a few slides of the illustrations in enlarged detail to show to students as the book is read.
It’s a great book to purchase for your child or another child you know. With Mother’s Day around the corner it is also a perfect gift for your mother, mothers you know young and old, and even those motherly-types you have in your life. I have a few of those….and I know you do too.
Visit Karen Craft's website, Just Sharing a Story, to purchase your copy of The Gift.
You can become a fan of Karen’s on Facebook and get updates on future publications HERE
This post originally ran at my other site History Is Elementary. If you are wondering why I’m recycling posts see my explanation HERE.