Books–When Ms. Bixby’s cancer progresses faster than anticipated and she has to leave school before her Going Away party, three of her sixth-grade students—Topher, Brand, and Steve—hatch a plan to skip school, go to her hospital, and provide her with her Perfect Day. They face a steady stream of entertaining obstacles during their quest, but the true depth of Ms. Bixby’s Last Day by John David Anderson is in the flashbacks that fill in how the boys became such good friends and why they each individually bonded so strongly with Ms. Bixby.
Chapters are told from the characters’ varying viewpoints. Topher is overly imaginative, Steve is extremely book smart, and Brand is the one with common sense. It’s fun to see how the boys get out of each of the sticky situations they get into during their day—What will they do when they bump into a teacher? How will they stretch their money far enough to buy all the things they want for Ms. Bixby’s Perfect Day? Who will be brave enough to use a toilet painted like a shark?
I listened to this book on Hoopla, and I highly recommend it either in audio or book format. It’s a great “boy book” for upper elementary students, but this grown up girl really enjoyed it too. Its themes of friendship, kindness, appreciation, and grief and really for everyone.
Other Juvenile Fiction books by John David Anderson include Posted, Insert Coin to Continue, The Dungeoneers, Minion, and Sidekicked.
Book – Hurt Go Happy by Ginny Rorby brings us thirteen-year-old Joey who lost her hearing at the age of six. She can almost remember the sound of her mother’s voice, which is still the only voice in her family she is able to follow by reading lips. Joey’s mother just wants her daughter to blend in to the hearing world, and refuses to let Joy learn sign language, fearing it will make her an outcast. However, this only manages to make Joey feel even more left out and lonely. Joey struggles to communicate with people in her daily life, like her stepfather whose bushy mustache makes lip-reading impossible.
Everything changes the day Joy meets Dr. Charles Mansell and his signing chimpanzee, Sukari. Suddenly a whole world of possibilities opens up for young Joey, as she secretly begins to learn American Sign Language. Struggling to keep her newfound friends private from her mother, Joey is torn between wanting to head her mother’s wishes and being able to communicate with the world around her. When tragedy strikes and Sukari’s life hangs in the balance, Joey will stop at nothing to save her friend.
Having read, and enjoyed El Deafo by Cece Bell, I was excited and hopeful Hurt Go Happy would be just as good a read. The second half of this novel was a bit darker than I anticipated, following Joey’s fight to save the chimpanzee, Sukari, but it was a really interesting read overall.
Book – After becoming very sick as a child, Cece began to lose her hearing. El Deafo chronicles Cece’s experiences, from going to school, making friends, and using a hearing aid device. El Deafo is the perfect mix of fiction and biography.
Inspired by real life experiences, this is a beautifully illustrated story told in graphic novel form. As someone who really hasn’t read a lot of comic books, I found the artwork to be very refreshing. The characters reminded me of my favorite childhood tv show, Arthur, with their animal likenesses. Each character has rabbit-like features, with a pink triangle nose, and tall ears.
One of my favorite things about this book is Cece’s description of her hearing aid, the Phonic Ear. Young Cece introduces the device as bulky, unattractive, and heavy; it makes her feel awkward and uncomfortable.
In school, her teacher wears a microphone that is connected to the device. With her earpieces Cece is able to hear every word her teacher is says, both in the classroom, and any other place in the building! With her newfound powers of hearing, Cece discovers her inner superhero, El Deafo. I adored the honest and charismatic narration of this little girl, and hope you will too.