The kids are wrapping up their spring break, the eggs have been successfully hunted, the matzah has been eaten, and I have to remind myself to stay away from the jellybeans and chocolate. In between “Harry Potter” sessions (we’re on “The Order of the Phoenix” these days), there’s been a few other great reads.
“Ms. Bixby’s Last Day,” John David Anderson: I’d been reading a lot about this book before I picked it up, and wow is it heartbreaking and amazing. Three sixth-graders give their favorite teacher the last day she deserves, revealing in the process why she’s so special to each of them. The sensitive topic is deftly handled, and the alternating chapters give each boy his own distinct, funny, sharp voice. This is the sort of book you read if you want to write middle grade. (I love that reading great books is considered research.) Reading it made me think about my own favorite teachers and what they meant to me, which I suspect is how everyone reacts to it. There’s a lot of wisdom in this book, from the boys as well as their teacher.
“Happy Dreamer,” Peter H. Reynolds: The original title of this book was “Amazing, Delightful, Happy Dreamer,” as Reynolds wrote in Nerdy Book Club, and the initials were intended to spell ADHD (the whole phrase does appear in the book). Reynolds said he dealt with ADHD symptoms while he was growing up, and wanted to reassure kids with creative, outside-the-box brains that they are special and needed, even if the grownups around them are just telling them to sit up straight, pay attention in class, and clean their rooms.
We deal with ADHD a fair amount in this household, and everything Reynolds describes in the book, from the daydreaminess down to the messy room, is spot on. I love having such a positive, supportive book around, as a reminder that the daydreamy people are entitled to feel valued, and success in life doesn’t necessarily equal sitting still in class. I love all of Reynolds’ books — “The Dot,” “Ish,” “Playing by Heart” — for what they say about the importance of creativity and individuality, but I might love this one the most.