I had a feeling that John David Anderson's Ms. Bixby's Last Day would be an emotional rollercoaster from the first couple of pages. The chapters alternate between the points of view of three middle school boys who are best friends. They have very different personalities but one thing they have in common is that Ms. Bixby is their favorite teacher. One of the best things about this book is that it shows that you never quite know what another person is going through and that each person has a unique set of abilities and talents. I think this is a particularly important message for middle grade readers because this is the time where you start feeling awkward, misunderstood, and alienated from your peers (and oftentimes your family). Adolescence can be difficult enough but it can be made even more so if your world is completely turned upside down. That's exactly what happens when these boys (and the rest of the school) discover that Ms. Bixby will have to leave school suddenly due to illness. The book focuses on how each of the boys reacts to the news and follows them on an epic quest to make Ms. Bixby's last day in town one that is made of pure awesomeness. This is one of those books that parents would probably think is 'too harsh' or 'too sad' for kids to read and that is exactly why kids should read it. Life isn't always sunshine and roses. Sometimes things are sad and challenging and it's important that kids see that this happens just as often as the fun, silly times. Another thing to point out is that these are 3 middle school boys who are not afraid to show their emotions and to be vulnerable. This is a fantastic message! I enjoyed this book so much that I picked up another book by John David Anderson which is on a very different wavelength (it's about superheroes) and I'll be posting that review up in a few weeks. Ms. Bixby's Last Day gets a 10/10 from me.
PS Make sure your seat-belt is tightened for the emotional rollercoaster you're about to be on if you embark on this book. You have been warned.