New Middle Grade Fiction: Ms. Bixby’s Last Day – John David Anderson

I have always had a soft spot for Anderson’s middle-grade fantasies because he does such a great job of injecting them with meaning and heart while keeping the action and comedy at the forefront. In this new book he’s writing realistic fiction that’s firmly in Jerry Spinelli territory.

This is the story of three middle-school boys whose teacher becomes ill and won’t be able to finish the year. But because Ms. Bixby is one of those life-changing-never-forget-them kind of teachers, the boys resolve to embark on a risky plan that will give Ms. Bixby the kind of last day she deserves.

You know I love lots of the books I write about. But I loved this book. It’s such a lovely, funny, heartwarming and heartbreaking kind of story that I’m getting teary even sitting here remembering it. So I was happy to get this bookseller praise that nailed the feeling the book evokes:

Just finished laughing and ugly-crying my way through this phenomenal book. There is fun and adventure and friendship and inspiration… A magical teacher and moments of honesty and the trickiness of life and all that comes with it. Reminds me of a little book called Wonder. (Yup. I said it.)”
— Nicole Yasinsky, The Booksellers at Laurelwood, Memphis, TN

Writers like Gordon Korman and Soman Chainani are raving about Ms. Bixby; it got three starred reviews; and it’s a top ten summer Indie Next pick. Figures crossed that this book breaks out a great writer to the wide audience he deserves.

“Ms. Bixby was one of the ‘Good Ones’—the kind of teacher you pay attention to and who pays attention to you. For each of the three narrators in this moving story, she meant something special. Topher, Steve, and Brand feel unappreciated at home: white artist Topher’s parents are busy working; Japanese-American Steve feels inferior to his perfect sister, who meets his father’s high standards; and white Brand has shouldered adult responsibilities because his paraplegic father is too depressed to do household tasks. Alternating chapters chronicle their efforts to acquire an expensive cheesecake, a bottle of wine, and a large bag of french fries for a celebratory picnic in the park across the street from the hospital where Ms. Bixby, who recognized their strengths, is being treated for pancreatic cancer….Sad and satisfying in just the right amounts.”
Kirkus (starred review)

Through dialogue, action, memories, and reflections, the narrators move the story forward, filling in gaps in understanding until the complex puzzle is complete. Through their individual, interwoven narratives, these well-developed characters become the most intriguing elements of the story. A smart, funny, ultimately moving novel.”
Booklist (starred review)

“Anderson skillfully balances realism and comic exaggeration in an emotionally rich tale that holds no miracles, other than the small human kind.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“What a beautiful book—a full-hearted and emotional exploration of friendship, grief, imagination, and the inner life of boys. But most of all, it reminds us about the power of the “Good Ones”: those once-in-a-lifetime teachers who not only saved us, but also became a part of us, long after they’re gone. Kids won’t just love this book. They need it.”
— Soman Chainani

“Hysterically funny and utterly heartbreaking….Ms. Bixby’s Last Day reminds us that heroes, especially unlikely ones, are all around us. I loved this book.”
— Christopher Rose, Andover Bookstore, Andover, MA

Read an Excerpt! (click below)


Ms. Bixby’s Last Day (9780062338174) by John David Anderson. $16.99 hardcover. 6/21/16 on sale.

2 thoughts on “New Middle Grade Fiction: Ms. Bixby’s Last Day – John David Anderson

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