It looks like Billy Miller might have a rough year. After all, right before he’s set to begin the school year an accident causes him to bang his head. Now, he not only has to start the year with a big bump on his head, but he’s worried that maybe his brains have been knocked around. What if he isn’t smart enough for the second grade? It turns out, of course, that Billy’s brain is just fine – but that doesn’t mean second grade is a breeze. Navigating school, family, and friends is tough and Billy doesn’t always have all the right answers. But with help from the people who love him, Billy finds that he can tackle it all.
Parents, children, and educators may be most familiar with Kevin Henkes for his work on adorable picture books like Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse and Owen. In The Year of Billy Miller, Henkes creates a main character equally endearing, though decidedly less saccharine than his famous talking mice. Billy Miller is not a groundbreaking read – but what it lacks in originality it makes up for in authenticity. Billy Miller’s year is full of familiar elementary school concerns. Cancelled sleepovers, sibling rivalries, and the dreaded school diorama project will be familiar to parents and children alike; and Henkes treats them all with a lighthearted humor that still manages to acknowledge the seriousness with which youngsters take these issues. Billy is easy to like, and his family feels real enough to be believable, but quirky enough to be entertaining. The book is divided into four easy-to-digest sections with plentiful black-and-white art for those who are just starting to tackle chapter books, but Henkes doesn’t shy away from large vocabulary words that may daunt some hesitant readers. Henkes has once again provided an effort that proves to be a success, and one can’t help but wonder if we’ll see Billy Miller take on the third grade some day.
School Library Journal recommends this book for students in grades 1-3.
Publication Information: The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes. Greenwillow Books, September 2013. ISBN: 978-0062268129.
The above review is of an Advanced Reader’s Edition of this book sent to me by the publisher; artwork was not final and changes may have been made to the final text. I received no compensation for this review.