on June 21st 2016
Genres: Children's Fiction, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Reaction Upon Reading: This is not goodbye
“Then she asked me who the lead singer of Led Zeppelin was. I told her zeppelins could not be made of lead due to the obvious weight issues. She said, “Case closed.” Led Zeppelin is a band. I know that now.”
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.
“She’s one of the good ones.”
I read this book to my class as our read aloud. I chose it because it was multiple perspectives and dealt with the themes of friendship, finding your place and dealing with grief and hardships. The three boys in the book are all very different. Steve is Japanese and struggles with the pressures his family places on him to be perfect, just like his older sister (this plays into a very overplayed Asian stereotype but thankfully works). Brand is practically the sole caregiver of his wheelchair bound father after an accident left him paralyzed and Topher is struggling with feeling like his is going to be replaced and on the outs of his friendship with Steve.
Ms. Bixby is ‘one of the good ones’. A teacher who cares about all her students, challenges their thinking and encourages them to be the best they can be. She has gorgeous quotes known as ‘Bixbyisms’ that are shared throughout the story as the boys and plot develop.
The book begins with Ms. Bixby telling the class she has cancer. She shares that she will not be able to spend the rest of the school year with them, this is because she needs to seek treatment but promises they will have an amazing last week together. That is abruptly halted when she is rushed into hospital early and no one gets to say goodbye. The boys decide to plan the best ‘last day’ ever celebration of their own with Ms. Bixby, to make up for the party she promised them. This leads the boys on a heartwarming and entertaining journey of self discovery and mayhem across the city to Ms. Bixby’s hospital bed.
They seek out cheesecake, a special book, the right kind of music and some wine to share! These items are not all easily obtained and the boys come across some quirky characters and less than desirable situations.
What I love most about this book is the relationship Ms. Bixby has with each boy and how this is slowly revealed. Each boy thinks he is the only one with a special connection to Ms. Bixby and hides it from the others. She helps each of them deal with their own problems and sees them for who they really are. Not the outward portrayal they want others to see, but who they really are on the inside.
This book is tender, innocent and thoughtful…and bound to make you cry!
Favourite Character: Brand
I love Brand so much as a character. He had so much depth and mystery. His father’s relationship with him and that whole backstory was so sad. The fact he had to work in the rain, snow, shine etc… to get groceries every week broke me heart. I wanted shout at his father to get over it and look after his son numerous times throughout the book. Then you add in his special relationship with Ms. Bixby. How can you not root for him?!
Least Favourite Character: Topher
Topher’s insecurities make him a character harder to relate too. He spent majority of the book worried that Steve was going to replace him with Brand. He didn’t really have anything about him that I cared about. However in saying that a lot of students in my class expressed that they could related to Topher, so he was important to them.
What did you think of this book?
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