Mary Pope Osborne's
Classroom Adventures Program

Mary Pope Osborne's Commencement Address

Miss Hall's School 

Class of 2024

June 2, 2024 ~ Pittsfield, MA


Congratulations to the graduates of the class of 2024. It’s an honor to be with you today. This day celebrates a close of one chapter in your lives, and the beginning of a new one. 

I know a bit about ending and beginning chapters, as I’ve been writing Magic tree House chapter books for more than 30 years.

Sometimes when teens and young adults approach me and say they’ve read my books they become quite emotional. I’ve come to realize that’s it not me at all or my Magic Tree House books that has moved them. It’s their memories of who they were when they read the books. 


Children who first come to chapter books like mine are usually around seven-years old. They are just emerging from the natural self-centeredness of early childhood and haven’t yet entered the difficult world of peer pressure, cell phones and social media. During this in-between period, children become more focused on the outside world than on themselves. 

It’s the time before “the veil of familiarity” has fallen over ordinary life. The simplest things seemed fresh and wondrous. Bird nests, fireflies, stones and rivers. It’s a time when children celebrate the changing seasons and weather – thunderstorms and snowfall.  It’s a time when they feel a natural empathy for animals and other vulnerable beings. 

This in-between period is also a time when the imagination most takes flight and children surrender easily to the spirit of play: a picnic table becomes a ship; a treehouse a hidden fort. One is free to be an astronaut, a mountain climber, a knight, a horse, a dog, a movie star. 

This is also the time when most children crack the code of reading. They discover that the tiny dark squiggles on a page can quickly turn into running wild horses or talking rabbits. The squiggles can take them to faraway places and still get them home in time for dinner.

Over the last 30 years I’ve met thousands of seven-year-old children in the US and other countries. I have to say they are universally kind and curious no matter where they are from. And often, they seem remarkably confident, seeing me more as a peer than a grownup. “Mrs. Osborne you may not know this,” a third grader once whispered in my ear, “but I’m an author too.” Or, as another child said in a letter, “If you run out of ideas, call me and I might be able to help.” Or as another wrote: “If you keep writing these books I’ll keep reading them. I hope this inspires you to be a better writer.”


But now, let’s fast-forward ten years – and not focus on seven-year-olds, but on seventeen-year-olds.

Year by year, since you were seven, you’ve explored a wider world, and learned more about how it works and how you fit into it.

You’ve developed a voice that can be taken seriously by others.

You’ve gained a vast amount of knowledge and experience. 

Think about all you’ve learned just in the last few years at Miss Hall’s.

Perhaps you studied languages and literature, poetry, art, biology, geometry, world history, horticulture, engineering.

All the learning and growing that you’ve accomplished since you were seven is startling. In my opinion, you’ve just passed through the most quickly evolving period in a human life. That’s a miracle in itself.

With all this, you might not feel as exuberant, though, as you did at seven. Maybe that child has fallen into a long winter sleep or hides somewhere, feeling abandoned, longing for a re-enchanted world. 


But what I’ve come here to tell you is this: that child still lives inside of you. All that you were when you were first learning to read -- and all the magic of play, imagination, curiosity, wonder and bright confidence – all that is still a part of you and is available to you -- and will be forever.

You can rekindle that light of wonder and look again with amazement at the new worlds you’re about to enter. There is an exhaustible supply of things to marvel over – from the speed of light, migration of butterflies, the teachings of Confucius and Plato, the study of volcanos or dinosaur bones. 


In my twenties, when I realized I wanted to be a writer, my orientation to life reversed itself. Instead of figuratively always looking in a mirror, I began training myself to look out at the world instead.  I worked as a waitress and bartender at night, but during the day I walked around Manhattan, carrying index cards and a pen in my back pocket and took notes on what I saw, such as “Asian market, bouquets of tulips and roses” or “a skater in red tights dipping and swirling in the white sunlight”.

Over the years, I’ve kept dozens of notebooks filled with words or phrases, descriptions of weather and woods. I still make lists of verbs and everyday familiar words that sparkle and crackle with life, like woodbine and filigree.  It’s fun to chronicle simple evocative images, like tree shadows, a cold sky, rain on windows. Sometimes I’m lucky enough to look at an ordinary thing as if seeing it for the first time. I live for those moments that bring back flashes of childhood joy and desire. 

Your newly-animated child can bring that same enchantment back to your life – to your view of the natural world, as well as your encounters with other people. Embracing life, you don’t immediately need to categorize others or form quick opinions of them; rather you might suspend judgement and pay real attention – attention is all you need to give to the other– the way a child patiently gives full attention to a ladybug walking across a leaf.

Right now as you prepare to enter a new, exciting phase of your life, I ask you to be patient with yourself, take time to daydream and read books just for pleasure, take your seven-year-old self on aimless walks in the woods, look closely at flowers – trust me, the shiny geometry of a simple dandelion will take your breath away.


Before I close, I’d like to share a short poem written by poet Mary Oliver, titled, What can I say?

What can I say that I have not said before?

So I’ll say it again.

The leaf has a song in it.

Stone is the face of patience.

Inside the river there is an unfinishable story

and you are somewhere in it

and it will never end until all ends.

Take your busy heart to the art museum and the

chamber of commerce

but take it also to the forest.

The song you heard singing in the leaf when you

were a child

is singing still.

I am of years lived, so far, seventy-four,

and the leaf is singing still. 


So, congratulations again to the class of 2024. Please remember,

“Inside the river there is an unfinishable story. And you are somewhere in it.”  


I wish you joy and wonder as you start living your next chapter.



The above transcript may not be copied, reproduced, published, performed, or modified in any form. Use of quotes from the above transcript must be clearly credited to Mary Pope Osborne.


Magic Tree House Resources
PlusPortals Sign In

Can't access your account?