Determined to give their hospitalized teacher a worthy "last day," three sixth-grade boys skip school and persevere on an impossible quest, deepening their friendship and discovering inner courage they didn’t know they had.
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. Not surprisingly, their mission is not entirely successful, but, like Atticus Finch, they see it through. Anderson’s dialogue is realistic, and his choice of first-person narration gradually reveals each boy’s history and personal growth. His characters are believable 12-year-old boys. The urban setting is appropriately diverse and gritty, and humor and pathos are nicely balanced.
Sad and satisfying in just the right amounts. (Fiction. 8-12)