Ms. Bixby’s Last Day
Author: John David Anderson
Published June 21st by Walden Pond Press
Summary: 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 very 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.
About the Author: John David Anderson, the author of many books for young readers including Sidekicked, Minion, and The Dungeoneers, returns with a story of three kids, a very special teacher, and one day that none of them will ever forget. A dedicated root beer connoisseur and chocolate fiend, he lives with his wife, two kids, and perpetually whiny cat in Indianapolis, Indiana. You can visit him online at www.johndavidanderson.org.
My Review: Ms. Bixby is one of those teachers that you read about and you want to be (if you are a teacher) or you want to have (if you are a student). As you can see from all the praise it has been receiving, John David Anderson wrote a home run book with this one. Our three main characters are diverse, funny, sweet, and stubborn, and Anderson’s voices for each are unique and alternate beautifully throughout the book. Though I must warn: This is a roller coaster book. You will laugh, smile, cry, get angry, and cringe. It is all there.
But this tour is about more than just the book, it is about focusing on our Ms. Bixby. Ms. Bixby is described as a “Good One” in the book. A “Good One” is a teacher who “make[s] the torture otherwise known as school somewhat bearable. You know when you have one of the Good Ones because you find yourself actually paying attention in class, even if it’s not art class. They’re the teachers you actually want to go back and say hi to next year. The ones you don’t want to disappoint.”
My Ms. Bixby: We all have a wide variety of teachers; however, there are those that change your life. When I was in 12th grade, I was a high school fish just floating my way through school. I was a high achiever who was okay with only doing okay in classes. I didn’t know what I was good at. I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. I just thought I was another face in the crowd; nothing special. Then I entered Miss Hazel Haley’s classroom. When I had Miss Haley in 1999-2000, he had been teaching for 63 years, 61 of them at Lakeland High where I took my academic classes and 54 in the same classroom (in a building named after herself). She was a spit fire: She showed the Romeo and Juliet film from the 60s even though it showed a breast, she would speak her mind no matter what, and she cared and remembered every single person she’d ever taught. We were her kids. She never married or had children of her own, and she would tell you it was because she didn’t have to–we were her kids.
But it wasn’t all of this that made Miss Haley my Ms. Bixby. Actually, at first I really didn’t like her. She didn’t put up with my talking or note passing. She didn’t tolerate my Cs and Bs when she knew I could do better. She saw something in me. Finally, on one of the assignments I’d halfheartedly completed, she made me stay after school to work on with her. She told me I couldn’t get away with working the way I had been with the brain I had. She told me, “You are a good writer.” And she told me, “You are smart.” And for some reason her telling me stuck. And everything changed. I now knew that I was good at something. That I could accomplish something. And I have.
When I decided to become a middle school teacher, I thought right away of Miss Haley. I know she would be proud of me. I wish I could tell her. And mostly, I hope that I can be someone’s Miss Haley, or Ms. Bixby. I hope my students know I care for them as if they are my own children. I know first hand that one teacher can definitely make a difference.
Walden TV Episode 17 — “LIST IT: Ms. Bixby’s Last Day:”
Have you ever had a favorite teacher? Maybe someone as AWESOME as Ms. Bixby? Mike & Julian certainly have! Follow along their list of favorite teachers–real and fictional!
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: In addition to a wonderful classroom library addition and a read aloud, Ms. Bixby is just one of many teachers I’ve read about that show how a teacher can change a life. Ms. Bixby’s Last Day would be a perfect addition to a “Teacher Appreciation Text Set” along with Wonder, Fish in a Tree, Bluefish (YA), Love that Dog, Jumped In (YA), and The Summer of May.
Publisher’s Educators Guide:
Discussion Questions: Why did the author choose to use three different points of view?; How did Ms. Bixby affect each of the boys’ lives?; What made Ms. Bixby a “Good One?”
Flagged Passages: “You can pick your friends, and you can pick your nose, but you can’t pick your friend’s nose. That’s something my dad told me. Turns out…not entirely true. I mean, the middle part is obviously true. But the last part isn’t true at all.” (p. 25)
Funny story you’ll have to read the book to read (p. 25-27)
“You can pick your friend’s nose. But there’s a difference between can and should.” (p. 27)
Read This If You Loved: Wonder by RJ Palacio, Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt, Bluefish by Pat Schmatz, Love that Dog by Sharon Creech, Jumped In by Patrick Flores-Scott, The Summer of May by Cecelia Galante, The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart, Remembering Mrs. Rossi by Amy Hest
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