Here I am, with the task on focusing on one of my teachers who was like Ms. Bixby in Ms. Bixby’s Last Day. A good teacher. A really good one. The kind who makes school worth going to, and who changes your life for the better.
The thing is – lucky me – I’ve had a lot of good teachers.
Mrs. Figatner, who was barely taller than we kindergartners were, and made school something to look forward to.
Ms. Welsek, who wore high heels every day (including high-heeled sneakers on field day), called us all “Bubbles,” and, on one very memorable occasion, explained that farting was normal and everyone does it.
Mr. Gold, who taught history with the timing of a stand-up comedian.
Mr. Collins and David Rowland, the amazing theater teachers who taught me the magical addiction of being on a stage.
Mr. Block, who treated us all like we had something important to say, and who rocket-charged my love of reading and writing.
I would be a different person without them.
But when I think about the teacher who really influenced me, who really made me who I am, I think of my elementary school librarian, Mrs. Wilbur.
Mrs. Wilbur was the quintessential 1970s librarian. Gray hair and glasses, comfortably round, and about 100 years old (in retrospect, she was probably not 100). Whenever we gathered for one of her storytimes, always in the same corner of the picture book section, she’d light a candle. The flame meant shhhh. It meant listen. It meant be still, for just a little while, because here comes a story.
And we did. We sat still on the floor and watched Mrs. Wilbur in her rocking chair, the candle on a table next to her, and listened while she read us books. That cozy corner, her soft voice, and the candle flame wrapped us in a cocoon that let us travel more easily through the magical portal into the book’s world.
I don’t light a candle when I read anymore. I don’t have to. Mrs. Wilbur gave me the key, and I don’t need an open flame to remember how to create a sacred space around words (both the ones I take in and the ones I put out). Mrs. Wilbur knew the importance of teaching a bunch of wiggly little kids that reading is magic, libraries are sacred, stories are transportive, and that it’s good to have cozy rituals to remind you of all of these things.
Ms. Bixby’s Last Day is a novel about a great teacher, and three of her students who conspire to give her the “last day” she deserves. They grow, they learn, become stronger, and break some rules along the way.
This book is so well done, so good, with hints of the full story dropped just so, so you have to keep reading. The characters are utterly real and believable. It’s impossible not to fall in love with Topher, Steve, and Brand, and, of course, with Ms. Bixby.
I know I’ll be thinking about this book for a long time. This will be an important book for a lot of kids. It’s so full of heart and honest love and humor.
Find out more information about this great book here, or read an excerpt here. And be sure to stop by the other stops on the Ms. Bixby’s Last Day blog tour: