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The Year of Billy Miller

Review

The Year of Billy Miller

It was the first day of second grade and Billy Miller was worried. Over summer vacation, Billy had hit his head, which left a sizable bump, but the doctor thought that he was just fine. However, overhearing his parents talk the night before the first day of school, Billy learns that his mama is concerned that the bump would affect his memory, while papa is confident that Billy would do well in school. He's convinced that this year was going to be the Year of Billy Miller.

"Henkes, a multi-award winning author, has created a story about a second grader who is building self-confidence as he’s just beginning to spread his wings."

School has its twist and turns, especially when Billy encounters the rude and sarcastic Emma Sparks. Before long, Billy and Emma’s daily routine is to ridicule each other. One day when Ms. Silver catches Billy making a face, he has to find a way to prove to his teacher that he's not a bad kid. Based on an idea from his three-year-old sister, Sally (known as Sal), Billy attempts to speak with Ms. Silver, but instead, in a serendipitous yet transparent moment, he shares with her his fear of not being smart enough for second grade. Ms. Silver affirms that he was indeed smart and a good boy.

Needing to work on his diorama animal habitat school project, Billy asks papa if he could help him with it. Though the project is a success, Billy noticed that papa was particularly crabby. Papa, an artist by trade, constantly finds odds and ends to create three-dimensional artwork, but his ideas never amount to anything special. Noticing how creative papa was with Billy’s project, he suggests that papa make dioramas. Papa took his suggestion seriously. Later, papa shows Billy his projects, which papa calls assemblages that are made out of old cigar boxes. Papa credits his creativity to Billy.

After creating more assemblages, papa and mama head out to a gallery that displays his artwork. Billy, who stays home with Sal and their babysitter Gabby, is not pleased that his sleepover plans with his friend fell through, especially their plans to stay up all night. It did not help that Sal sobbed loudly after mama and papa left. Because of that, Billy doesn't want to have anything to do with his little sister. However, at bedtime, Billy attempts to stay awake all night anyway, but he still did not want to do it alone. He convinces Sal to stay awake with him, but before midnight struck, both fall sound asleep. The next day, Billy realizes that Sal was a lot more fun to be with than he had originally thought, which makes him happy. To top it off, when mama and papa return, papa tells Billy that he sold five of his assemblages.

As the school year draws to a close, the second graders prepare for the end-of-the-year show in which they have to write a poem about a family member. Since Ms. Silver is a high school English teacher, Billy thought she would appreciate it if he wrote a poem about her. Though Ms. Silver did not expect the students to memorize their poems, Emma Sparks brags that she would hers, which bothered Billy since he is afraid that he will forget his lines. But after a great deal of practicing, Billy decides that he would give it a try. Young readers will have to read to the end to find out if Billy had the poem memorized, or not, on the evening of the show!

Henkes, a multi-award winning author, has created a story about a second grader who is building self-confidence as he’s just beginning to spread his wings. Organized in four parts entitled teacher, father, sister and mother, THE YEAR OF BILLY MILLER is sure to be a winner among elementary school-aged readers.

Reviewed by Anita Lock on September 23, 2013

The Year of Billy Miller
by Kevin Henkes

  • Publication Date: September 17, 2013
  • Genres: Youth Fiction
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Greenwillow Books
  • ISBN-10: 0062268120
  • ISBN-13: 9780062268129