John David Anderson
We all have those special teachers that we’ll never forget. They might not come along often, but everyone has at least a couple growing up. Ms. Bixby was one such teacher. Her sixth grade students were enjoying their last year before middle school when they’re blindsided by the news: Ms. Bixby is sick. So sick that she will have to leave them the month before school dismisses for the summer. Her students are shocked and devastated, but Ms. Bixby is calm enough to soothe everyone’s nerves. On her last day teaching, her students were going to throw her a farewell party, or more like a “see you later” party. But she didn’t show up. Without the chance to wish her luck or give her a gift, three best friends set out to find their teacher and give her the last day of school that she deserves.
The premise of this story may sound downright depressing, but it’s not what it seems. All at once it was funny, poignant, sad, and light-hearted. Told from the point of view of the three sixth grade boys, this book does a wonderful job of putting the reader in the shoes of each distinct character. Topher is creative. He’s always making up new words, wild stories, and a surprisingly accurate taxonomy of teachers. Steve is a genius. He practically has a photographic memory and he’s capable of memorizing huge swathes of information in a short amount of time. Brand is just your typical kid. Not great at anything, but not bad either. Through the eyes of these characters, the story goes from maudlin to wonderful. As an adult, reading this gave me a powerful dose of nostalgia. I imagine most grown-ups would feel the same. Young readers, both boys and girls, are likely to connect with the characters and the relatable way in which they’re written. This is a great back to school read for kids (and parents) who are trying to get into the swing of things for the new school year. I highly recommend it!