Ms. Bixby's Last Day

Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
Ms. Bixby's Last Day Book Poster Image
Remarkable story of three boys honoring spirited teacher.

Parents say

age 8+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Quotable affirmations such as, "We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be," and plentiful literary references including To Kill a Mockingbird, The Neverending Story, Lord Alfred Tennyson, and Walt Whitman. Clever wordplay with tweens' invented words.

Positive Messages

Strong emphasis on expressing gratitude, treating people with respect, and honoring those who strive to make the world a better place, in ways both small and large. We can't control the cards we're dealt, but we can decide how we play them. To be the hero of your own story, you need to slay your dragons -- but the dragons aren't always easy to spot. Authenticity and consideration for others can change lives.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Ms. Bixby is a gem: She's deeply invested in her students and regards them with keen insight and curiosity about who they really are -- and who they could become. Steve, Topher, and Brand are deeply empathetic and fiercely loyal. They're so devoted to Ms. B they're jealous of each other's relationship with her. The boys are resourceful and responsible, and they love their families despite their frustrations.

Violence & Scariness

Pursuit of thief leads to exchanging shoves, punches, and threats with a menacing adult. Friends scrap and fight.

Language

Crude language including "butt zit," "turd," "piss," and "Christ" as a curse word. Boys invent their own substitutions for vulgarities, such as "flipwad" and "flopsucker."

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.

User Reviews

Parent of a 8 year old Written byCindy B March 18, 2018

Great read with 8yo

I read this with my 8yo son. We both loved it. Great story of boys friendship and a very special teacher. Highly recommend.
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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?

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