#942 – Ms. Bixby’s Last Day by John David Anderson

aa ms bixbys last day Ms. Bixby’s Last Day
Written by John David Anderson
Cover by Emma Yarlett
Walden Pond Press     6/21/2016
978-0-06-233817-4
308 pages     Ages 9—12

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“Everyone knows there are different kinds of teachers. The good ones. The not-so-good ones. The boring ones, the mean ones, the ones who try too hard. The ones you’ll never remember, and the ones you want to forget. But Ms. Bixby is none of these. She’s the sort of teacher who makes you feel like the indignity of school is worthwhile. Who makes the idea of growing up less terrifying. Who you never want to disappoint. What Ms. Bixby is, is one of a kind.

“Topher, Brand, and Steve know this better than anyone. And so when Ms. Bixby unexpectedly announces that she is very sick and won’t be able to finish the school year, they come up with a plan. Through the three different stories they tell, we begin to understand just what Ms. Bixby means to Topher, Brand, and Steve—and what they are willing to go to such great lengths to tell her.

“John David Anderson, the acclaimed author of Sidekicked, returns with a story of three kids, a very special teacher, and one day that none of them will ever forget.” [inside jacket]

The Story
Ms. Bixby is one of those teachers. You know the ones. The teacher everyone wants assigned homeroom; the teacher you still fondly recall all those years later. This is Ms. Bixby. With her pink-streaked hair, she seems to understand her students. She gives them complete attention when they 2speak. She treats them fairly. Each day, Ms Bixby writes a quote—“Bixbyisms”—on the chalkboard, preferring the feel of chalk to the ease of a dry boards. She reads The Hobbit, a chapter a day, employing distinctive voices for each character.

No one understands how wonderful a teacher Ms. Bixby is than Topher, Brand, and Steve, a trio of friends who feel a strong connection to their teacher, each in their own way for reasons that are slowly revealed. When Ms. Bixby explains she cannot finish the school year due to illness, and then leaves sooner than planned—missing a farewell party—the three boys decide to give her the “last day” she imagined when the subject was broached one day in class.

5They gather everything she desired for that day, and try to create it exactly as she envisioned. Everything is set for Saturday, until they learn Ms. Bixby will be transferring to a different hospital on that day. Ever resourceful and flexible, the boys shift gears to Friday, a school day. Skipping school is a first for all three boys and their decision to do so causes unforeseen problems as their day progresses.

When one thing after another goes wrong, the boys almost give up, call it quits, and head back to school. If they go on, how will they turn it around and please their favorite teacher with the day she envisioned and most decidedly deserves?

Review
Ms. Bixby’s Last Day is told in three viewpoints, giving each of them a unique point of view and reason for giving Ms. Bixby her perfect last day. The three boys could not be more different. Two were already lifelong best friends when new student Brand enters the lunchroom and sits with Topher and Steve—a chance meeting turns into friendships.

The writing is excellent. At first, I had to remind myself which boy was telling the story, but then it clicked 3and each voice became distinctively clear. While the topic of a gravely ill beloved teacher sounds heavy for a middle grade book, the subject is treated with grace by the author. Steve looks everything up on the Internet, answering questions or uncertainties the boys and the readers may share. Turning the page is easy and soon half the book has been read.

6Told with humor and oft-felt grace, the story is moving and heartfelt, I’ve heard a lot about Ms. Bixby’s Last Day and was thrilled to get a review copy. The story held up to all I had read and heard. Teachers will love the story, hoping they are one of those teacher, sans tan illness. Kids will enjoy the crazy adventurous day, the boy’s different viewpoints, and the sometimes strange, always funny situations they three get into on their way to the hospital.

Ms. Bixby’s Last Day is a perfect read aloud for three people or for one with the gift of distinctive voices. Red herrings, twists and turns, and a satisfying ending (though how you expect or hope it will end). Brand, Steve, and Topher’s stories about their beloved teacher are worth every minute you devote to reading this story about one caring teacher in an era of teaching to the test.

MS. BIXBY’S LAST DAY. Text copyright © 2016 by John David Anderson. Illustrations copyright © 2016 by ILLUSTRATOR. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Walden Pond Press, New York, NY.

AmazonIndie BooksApple BooksWalden Pond Press

Find Ms. Bixby’s Last Day on Goodreads HERE.
Ms. Bixby’s Last Day Teacher’s Guide is HERE.

John David Anderson:  http://www.johndavidanderson.org/
Follow on Twitter          @anderson_author

Emma Yarlett:  http://www.emmayarlett.com/
Follow on Twitter      @EmmaYarlett  

Walden Pond Press:  https://www.facebook.com/WaldenPondPress
Follow on Twitter          @WaldenPondPress              @HarperChildrens

   Walden Pond Press is an imprint of HarperColllins Children’s Books.

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Copyright © 2016 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved

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Ms. Bixby’s Last Day
Written by John David Anderson
Cover by Emma Yarlett
Walden Pond Press 2016
9780062338174

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15 thoughts on “#942 – Ms. Bixby’s Last Day by John David Anderson

  1. Pingback: #983 – Cloud and Wallfish by Anne Nesbet | Kid Lit Reviews

  2. I’ve seen this mentioned so favorably on several blogs now. Can’t wait to get my hands on a copy. Just reading your description of the book called to mind several wonderful teachers; it seems like the book really pays homage to how important a great teacher can be to the life of a child.

    Like

  3. Just when I was looking for a great Middle Grade book to read, you come through again. A kidlit author taking on the challenge of a deep subject is like a batter swinging for the fences – a lot of whiffs, but when one connects, it can be transcending. Like “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl”. This sounds like a smash out of the park.

    Like

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