“Ms. Bixby’s Last Day” by John David Anderson is the kind of story that inspires, touches, and changes those who read it. In creating the character of Ms. Bixby, Anderson has touched on the ideal of what a teacher should — and could — be. The story revolves around this special, unique teacher and what three of her students do to try to bring her a bit of happiness during a difficult time in her life.
Ms. Bixby was the kind of teacher who helped students want to achieve their best. They loved her because she looked at them as individuals, and she gave each of them what they needed. Brand, Steve and Topher are three students whom she helped a lot, and Anderson shares their story through first person narrative from each of them. Slowly, Anderson lets the reader know just how Ms. Bixby touched the lives of each of them in a manner which changed their lives permanently.
When Ms. Bixby can’t make her “last day” celebration with the class before getting medical treatment, the boys decide to bring the “last day” celebration to her. The adventure to fulfill her ideal last day brings many problems but serves to bring them all closer in the end.
“Sometimes when Ms. Bixby smiled at you, you had the feeling she’d been saving it just for you, that the smile actually had your name on it, that she could read your mind and knew you needed that smile more than anyone else in the room.” The way Anderson tells the story is pure genius. He starts in the middle and then helps the reader understand the lives of the three protagonists, and the special problems each of them faces.
Again brilliantly, the very end of the story is really the beginning of the adventure that the three boys undertake. It’s a story about a teacher who is the best teacher one could ever hope to meet and three boys whom she inspired. And it’s also about family and friendship and how you need both in your life.
This novel would be an extremely difficult read-aloud because I defy anyone to read it aloud and not cry. Or to read it silently and not cry. It’s heartbreakingly beautiful.
Please note: This review is based on the final hardcover book provided by the publisher, Walden Pond Press, for review purposes.