Ms. Bixby’s Last Day


Ms. Bixby’s Last Day (hard cover)

by John David Anderson

AR Level 5.2, 11 points


Ms. Bixby is the teacher we all want to be.  She is memorable, she realizes potential in all of her students (some for special reasons), and she is engaging.  When she is diagnosed with cancer and has to leave before her going away party, three of her students skip school and set out to give her a day to remember.  This story is told from the points of view of Brand (a boy whose mom passed away and father is a depressed paraplegic), Topher (with a vivid imagination, a great artist, and busy parents), and Steve (a Japanese American boy who is sometimes bullied, mainly by his parents).  Though they face many challenges, they are able to give their favorite teacher a send-off.

What I liked about this book was that she was so meaningful to them.  Even students she didn’t directly connect with were able to enjoy what she did to make their classroom engaging, whether it was reading The Hobbit, dying her hair pink, or teaching them “Bixbyisms” and asking them the moral of the story.  I hope my students can take a fraction of that away from their time with me.

What I didn’t like was that it kind of dragged in the middle.  I don’t know if I was expecting more, but I was expecting more of the power of Ms. Bixby throughout the book.  It seemed like there was a portion of the book that I wasn’t too entertained by.

Book 49 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)

Something in Between


Something in Between (audiobook)

by Melissa de la Cruz

Jasmine de los Santos is a high school senior, valedictorian, captain of the cheerleading squad, and all around perfect girl.  When she wins a national scholarship to the college of her choice, her Filipino parents reveal to her that they don’t have green cards and are in America illegally (which she prefers to call “undocumented”).  Jasmine also has a boyfriend with a congressman for a father.  Jasmine and her family navigate the legal system to become legal and suffer the consequences of their undocumented status, all while she falls in love with her rich Beverly Hills boyfriend and helps her friends with their issues.

What I liked about this book was that I learned about politics.  I didn’t know about the laws or the process to become a citizen or get a green card.  I was able to learn more about our government.  It wasn’t a great book, but like most books, I had to see it to the end.  I binge-listened to it so I could find a new book to read.

What I didn’t like about the book was the way Jasmine and her friends spoke.  Or maybe it was the way it was read.  I don’t have words like “player” in my vocabulary, so it kind of bugged me.  Maybe I’m too old to read books about popular girls.  I was also so annoyed about certain events, and that may be a personal thing because I feel like girls (all young people, really) should be young and enjoy being young without rushing into relationships or marriage.  Seriously, I know very few people who found their soulmates at 17 years old.  That may be the feminist in me.  I didn’t like the accents, which I found forced (I married into a Filipino family so I’m familiar with the accents, and the accents were too precise).

Book 48 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)

All the Bright Places


All the Bright Places (audiobook)

by Jennifer Niven


Where do I begin with this one?  It was heart-wrenching, humorous, and anxiety-ridden.  I have said before I don’t like reading books about suicide, but I just keep picking them up, don’t I?  Luckily, it is an engaging story, and an important one for young adults to read.

All the Bright Places is 75% love story and 25% pain.  Violet and Finch meet in the bell tower of their high school.  Violet is depressed over the death of her sister, who passed away in a car crash about 8 months earlier.  Finch, we quickly learn, has undiagnosed bipolar disorder, as well as an unstable and unsupportive home environment – divorced parents, abusive dad, unstable mom, etc.  His favorite thing to do is research historical suicides, as well as weigh the pros and cons of each method.  It gets around that Violet talked Finch off the ledge, when it was actually the opposite.  The two become partners on a school project and Finch quickly falls in love with Violet (Ultra Violet ReMARKEYable), but it takes some convincing for Violet to feel the same.  Eventually, she starts to come out of her depression, while Finch sinks even deeper into his mental illness.

What I liked about this book was the door I was given into the mind of someone with the highs and lows of bipolar disorder.  I, myself, have never considered suicide, nor have I ever lost someone close in the way that Violet has, but I found it fascinating to enter a world I would otherwise not experience.  That is the joy of reading!  I also enjoyed their love story, even if it wasn’t very believable.

What I didn’t like about this book was the way it kind of implied that their relationship could save each other.  It didn’t directly say that, but Finch helped Violet out of her depression, and experienced a high while with Violet, but when she wasn’t allowed to see him, he began to spiral.  What if they’d stayed together?  Would he have stayed happy or would he still have experienced the deepest, darkest low?  From my experience (I have two close relatives who contemplated suicide), it is brain chemistry.  I have also been depressed due to relationships, and suicide has never crossed my mind as an option.

Book 47 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)

Maybe A Fox


Maybe A Fox (paperback)

by Kathi Appelt

AR Level 4.9, 5 points


Maybe A Fox is one I’d read about on Twitter, but hadn’t put much thought  into buying it, because I didn’t really know what it was about, so it sat on my Amazon shopping list.  Then I saw it was in Scholastic, bought it, and waited until a student read it.  FYI: When a sixth grade boy brings it to you with tears in his eyes and tells you you should read it, you stop what you’re doing and pick it up.  That’s what I did, and I’m glad!  Also a warning, though- it is not a “feel good” book.  It is sad.  You will likely cry, or at least get teary or a little depressed after.

I’m partially torn, because it was too real for me.  Two sisters, very close in age (like my two daughters) lost their mother and are connected at the hip.  They fight with each other, share friends, and love each other more than anyone.  Like my two daughters.  Then one of the sisters goes missing at the exact moment a litter of foxes is born, and that’s where the fantasy comes in… that’s not like my two daughters, but the thought of one of them dying while the other one has to go on… too much!  I was ready to stop right there!  So the little fox feels drawn to the remaining sister, and helps her to find closure, since  no body was ever found.  At the same time, a young man is dealing with the death of his best friend in Afghanistan, and a wild cat is spotted.  It sounds like a lot to take in, and it is, but this story was written beautifully and all of the coincidences make sense in the end.  When you’re done, you will close the book, and sit in contemplation, soaking it all in.

What I liked about the book was the beauty of the relationships.  Maybe it was the sister-sister connection, the best friends, the fox kits, the mother to her daughter or the father to his daughters- they were all lovely and well-developed, I felt.  I felt the pain of the loss, and I didn’t lose any of them myself.

What I didn’t like about this book was the end.  I won’t spoil it, but there was one last jab in my heart that some felt was unnecessary.  I didn’t see it as unnecessary, but it hurt just the same.  I won’t give spoilers, but when you think it’s over, just wait for one more thing to happen.  This isn’t a funny book, and it isn’t heartwarming, but it will leave you feeling like it came full circle.

Book 46 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)