Teacher Appreciation Blog Tour with Review, Excerpt, Video, and Giveaway!: Ms. Bixby’s Last Day by John David Anderson



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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 SidekickedMinion, and The Dungeoneersreturns 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.

John David Anderson


Click to read a 48 page excerpt!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

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.

Lakeland Ledger article on Miss Haley’s legacy

NPR soundbite and transcript on Miss Haley’s retirement

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 WonderFish 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

Recommended For:

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Kellee Signature

Don’t miss out on the other stops on the Blog Tour!

6/2/2016 Nerdy Book Club
6/3/2016 Next Best Book
6/6/2016 Walden Media Tumblr
6/7/2016 Teach Mentor Texts
6/8/2016 This Kid Reviews Books
6/9/2016 Read, Write, Reflect
6/10/2016 Flashlight Reader
6/13/2016 Julie Falatko
6/14/2016 A Foodie Bibliophile in Wanderlust
6/15/2016 About to Mock
6/16/2016 Kid Lit Frenzy
6/16/2016 The Hiding Spot
6/17/2016 Unleashing Readers
6/20/2016 Ms. Yingling Reads
Novel Novice
6/21/2016 Maria’s Melange
Novel Novice
All the Wonders
6/22/2016 Lit Coach Lou
Novel Novice
6/23/2016 Novel Novice
6/24/2016 Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers
Novel Novice
6/27/2016 Librarian’s Quest
6/28/2016 Educate.Empower.Inspire…Teach
6/29/2016 Bluestocking Thinking
6/30/2016 Mindjacked
7/1/2016 All the Wonders

I Kill the Mockingbird by Paul Acampora


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I Kill the Mockingbird
Author: Paul Acampora
Published: May 20, 2014 by Roaring Brook Press

Summary: When Lucy, Elena, and Michael receive their summer reading list, they are excited to see To Kill A Mockingbird included. But not everyone in their class shares the same enthusiasm. So they hatch a plot to get the entire town talking about the well-known Harper Lee classic. They plan controversial ways to get people to read the book, including re-shelving copies of the book in bookstores so that people think they are missing and starting a website committed to “destroying the mockingbird.” Their efforts are successful when all of the hullabaloo starts to direct more people to the book. But soon, their exploits start to spin out of control and they unwittingly start a mini revolution in the name of books.

Review: Who doesn’t love a book about kids making mischief? The very premise of this book is exciting and clever: three intelligent students are frustrated that their peers don’t do the summer reading, so they decide to concoct a censorship conspiracy. The idea is brilliant, and it shows young readers that they have the power to make big changes in the world. English teachers will love this book because it inspires students to want to be more well-read. (And there are a plethora of allusions that were simply fantastic.) I enjoyed this book because it reminded me how much I love reading.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: This would be a great literature circle text, or it would bridge nicely with To Kill a Mockingbird. If I taught this text in my class, I would have my students devise a conspiracy, employ it in our school, and write responses about its results. I imagine this would be great fun. Also, it would be neat for students to create a chart of all of the books that are referenced. This might inspire them to try to tackle some of the great texts that are mentioned.

Discussion Questions: How are each of the three students characterized? What do each of them add to the friendship? To the conspiracy?; What is Lucy’s relationship with her mom? How does this add to the story?; Do you think the three students broke any rules? Do you think what they did was wrong?

We Flagged:

“‘We’re going to be like terrorists,’ he says.

‘We are not terrorists,’ I tell him. ‘We’re more like literary saboteurs'” (Chapter 8).

Read This If You Loved: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee; Rachel Spinelli Punched Me in the Face by Paul Acampora; Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Recommended For:

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Walden Award Winner!: A Review


Today we are happy to share our review of the winner of the

2013 Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award!


The Fault in our Stars
Author: John Green
Published January 10th, 2012 by Dutton Books

Summary: Hazel has been preparing to die since she was thirteen and was diagnosed with Stage IV Thyroid Cancer. Now, she is sixteen, a modern medical miracle and living with the side effects of the medication and of the cancer. Hazel finds herself between the levels of normalcy and dying. When she meets Augustus Waters, she begins to feel normal for the first time in a long time. Through this amazing friendship, both Hazel and Augustus learn how to truly live.

Ricki’s Review: Every once in a while, a book comes around that changes you. Admittedly, I am a huge fan of John Green and am always biased toward his books. While others may not agree with me, I would argue that this is definitely his best work. I have twenty books on my “favorite books” shelf, and this addition was a no-brainer. (I won’t tell you which one I removed to put this one on the shelf.) The characters are intelligent and witty, and I was continually laughing out loud. This book sends readers on a roller-coaster of emotions. It is the first book in a long time that made me truly feel a sense of catharsis. And Augustus recognizes my emotions as both worthy and real: “‘That’s the thing about pain,’ Augustus said, and then glanced back at me. ‘It demands to be felt'” (p. 63). The language and word choice make dozens of pages flag-worthy, and teachers will love doing close readings with this text. It is liquid gold for classroom teachers.

This is not a predictable cancer story because it is incredibly honest. Hazel recognizes the “perks” she gets as a cancer patient, and she has no trouble admitting that she doesn’t really have friends. When she goes shopping with her one female friend, she secretly wants to be anti-social and pull out a book to read. But when she meets Augustus, everything changes. If you haven’t read this book yet, be grateful–I am envious of you because I want to read this book again for the first time

Kellee’s Review: I’ll be honest—I had a really hard time writing a review of this book. I just don’t know if I am going to be able to do it justice. It is one of those books that as you read, there are so many good things and so much you love, and you know that it is something so special. Even now, as I sit here, I don’t know what to say. I know that I wish that it was more appropriate for middle schoolers so I could share it with more students, I know that it is a book that everyone should read, and I know that it is a book that I am glad to be sharing.

The Fault in our Stars is not only an emotional and funny book, it is beautifully written. As I read, I knew I wanted to mark quotes for a review, but it was hard to find a page to not mark.


John Green has a way with words. If you have read anything by him, you know what I am talking about. I think what makes this book even more powerful is that it is a combination of John Green’s voice and a deep, amazing story. Put the two together, and you get a masterpiece.

Discussion Questions: Hazel has a book that is her favorite and means so much to her; what book do you love that you could not live without? Choose your favorite line or quote from the book and discuss why  you connected with it so much.; Who is someone who made an impression on you but who you have lost touch with?

We Flagged: “Sometimes you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read that book” (p. 33).

“It wasn’t even that the book was so good or anything; it was just that the author, Peter Van Houten, seemed to understand me in weird and impossible ways. An Imperial Affliction was my book, in the way my body was my body and my thoughts were my thoughts” (p. 36).

“My thoughts are stars I can’t fathom into constellations” (p. 311).

Read This If You Loved: Looking for Alaska by John Green, Will Grayson, Will Grayson by David Levithan and John Green, Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick, The Survival Kit by Donna Freitas, A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, If I Stay by Gayle Forman, Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

Recommended For: 

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Have you read The Fault in our Stars? Did it affect you the way that it did us? 

RickiSig andSignature

Tom T’s Hat Rack by Michele Spry


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Tom T’s Hat Rack
Author: Michele Spry
Illustrator: Peggy A. Guest
Published January 2, 2013 by Spry Publishing

Summary: After Mr. T’s bout of cancer, he has decided that he wants to help make other people’s journeys during their chemo and radiation a bit easier. To do this, he asks his young friend Shelby to help him make a special project. Shelby Summers is one of those young people who understands the golden rule- she is good to all around her because she knows that is the right thing to do. This book shares with us the story of Mr. T and Shelby building their gift for others and what it is like to pay it forward.

My Review: This book’s purpose is more than just a narrative. The author, in her letter to me that came with the book, shared how she hopes the book would inspire others to pay it forward. “This simple act of kindness towards others is so simple to do and encourage others to do.” Too many children are growing up without thinking about this important aspect of humanity. Tom T’s Hat Rack is a great platform for starting that conversation.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: In the back of the book, the author has laid out ways for students to pay it forward just like Mr. T and Shelby. First, there is a brainstorming page to consider how the reader could help his or her community. Then the author’s page shares with the reader the story behind the book (Michele’s inspiration was a friend of hers that was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and was still positive and upbeat during his treatment). Finally, the hat rack plans are included so that the readers could make a hat rack for their community just like Mr. T and Shelby. I think that this is an important book because of what it teaches and the conversations that it’ll start. It’ll be perfect for a read aloud or book club in middle elementary grades. You could even combine it with the amazing picture books I’ll list below to make a kindness unit.

Discussion Questions: What can you do to help others in your community? List some ways you can help – big or small – it doesn’t matter as long as you are doing something positive to help others. (p. 91)

We Flagged: “Tonight, Mr. T talked about how he wanted to have Shelby help him with a little project. After going through these tough health issues with his cancer, he decided to do something positive to benefit others. He knew with Shelby’s caring heart, and vision to help people, he and Shelby would be able to accomplish this idea over summer break.” (p. 22)

Read this if you loved: Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson, Because Amelia Smiled by David Ezra Stein

Recommended for: 

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**Thank you to Michele Spry for providing a copy for review**