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Monday, September 03, 2018

Ms. Bixby's Last Day By John David Anderson

The Inquisitor's TaleIts sixth grade and Brand, Topher and Steve are actually enjoying it.  Their teacher, Ms. Bixby, is one of "the good ones."  She builds relationships with her students, spreads Bixbyisms (think Mr. Browne's precepts in the book Wonder), has a pink streak in her hair, can juggle and has worked as a clown.  She also loves reading as there are books everywhere in her class and always reads aloud to her students.  Near the end of school, Ms. Bixby shares with the class that she is sick and has to finish the year early to begin cancer treatments.  The class is going to give her a party on her last day but she enters the hospital earlier than expected.  The boys are upset that they cannot say their good-byes and hear her read the end of The Hobbit to the class, so they decide to take it upon themselves to give her a good "last day."  The three skip school, gather special items for the celebration, and make their way to the hospital for their visit.  Of course the trip doesn't go as planned and they encounter obstacles along the way but in the end, Ms. Bixby does get to finish reading The Hobbit to the boys.

This book is told from each of the boy's perspectives, so the reader learns about the individual relationship with Ms. Bixby from each boy.  The reader founds out about the family dynamics of the boys and that information adds a layer of depth to the characters.

This book is very realistic.  When Topher, Steve and Brand skip school, the boys makes sure to call in their absence.  They develop a plan with a schedule to get them to the hospital and back before the school day is over.  They research the bus routes and places to purchase their supplies.  There is a limited amount of money to buy the materials they need to have their "last time" party with Ms. Bixby.

Readers from this area will be able to relate to the setting as it talks about Woodfield Mall and the city of Chicago.  This story pulled at my heartstrings as I could relate it to a time in my life where a colleague who worked with children had cancer and left with the message that she would be back just like Ms. Bixby tells her students.  It is no wonder that this book was nominated for both the 2019 Bluestem and Caudill awards, as it is a story that will touch the hearts of children as well as adults.  Mr. Anderson has written a moving tale that will make you laugh, remember the teachers who have impacted your life, and bring a tear to your eye.  John David Anderson is also the author of Sidekicked (2013), Minion (2014), and Posted (2017).

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