A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Ms. Bixby's Last Day is an unforgettable coming-of-age story from John David Anderson, best known for lively, fantastical adventure stories (Minion). Three sixth-graders skip school but with the best intentions: to give their beloved, dying teacher a very special last day. Their adventures include obtaining a bottle of alcohol for her, which involves lying and getting into a fight with a dangerous adult, and intimidating another teacher. Jealous bickering sometimes leads to physical fighting, but more often the boys are sensitively attuned to one another. The three boys feel burdened by issues at home -- caring for a disabled parent and running the household; feeling neglected by busy parents; crushed by pressure to excel in school. A parent is depressed and misusing medication. Ms. Bixby is a wonderfully caring, attentive adult figure in their lives.
What's the story?
In MS. BIXBY'S LAST DAY, Ms. Bixby is one of the "good ones," the rare kind of teacher who makes school worth enduring. When a cancer diagnosis forces her to abruptly stop teaching, three of her sixth-grade students skip school to go on a mission to say good-bye. Topher, Steve, and Brand each have been uniquely touched by Ms. B's kindness and empathy, and they want to fulfill one of her wishes before it's too late. Despite their careful plans, nothing goes as it should: For every serendipitous surprise, they run into a demoralizing setback that tests their resolve -- and their friendship.
Is it any good?
This quietly funny and deeply moving story about three insightful boys and their remarkable teacher is a tender, pragmatic coming-of-age story. It's is a departure from John David Anderson's action-packed stories (Sidekicked, The Dungeoneers) and evocative of the boyhood bonding in Stand by Me (but much kinder and gentler for a younger audience).
Topher, Steve, and Brand take turns narrating, gradually revealing the heartaches in their home lives and the special ways Ms. Bixby helped them realize their worth and inner strength. It's a magical telling, full of heart, wisdom, and humor that softens the sobering message: Life can be callous, unfair, and blisteringly cruel, but it can be endured with the support of best friends and remarkable people like Ms. Bixby.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how in Ms. Bixby's Last Day, the boys lie and deceive adults to carry out their plan. Does the end justify the means?
Which teachers have made an impression on you? Did you ever let them know how much they meant to you?
Try answering Ms. Bixby's writing prompt: Imagine you had only one day left on the earth. What would you do with it?
- Author: John David Anderson
- Genre: Coming of Age
- Topics: Adventures, Brothers and sisters, Friendship, Great boy role models, Middle school
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Walden Pond Press
- Publication date: June 21, 2016
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 320
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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