The Year of Billy Miller

( 10 )

Overview

Things to know about Billy Miller:

  • He's worried about 2nd ...
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The Year of Billy Miller

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Overview

Things to know about Billy Miller:

  • He's worried about 2nd grade
  • He thinks bats are cool
  • His little sister is annoying
  • He had a spectacular accident this summer
  • He doesn't like poetry much
  • His dad makes really good cookies
  • Ned is his best friend
  • His mom likes rainy days
  • He thinks Emma Sparks is a pain
  • He can run really fast
  • This is his year

A 2014 Newbery Honor Book

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Priscilla Gilman
The adults in the novel help Billy and his younger sister, Sal, in the same way that Henkes helps his child readers, not didactically but organically, by recognizing their vulnerability, sanctioning their anxiety, and encouraging them to face challenges with confidence and ingenuity…That contemporary novels for elementary school aged boys about ordinary family life are so rare makes this one all the more welcome…Henkes's delightful story is restrained and vivid…forgoing the overdramatic or zany, it shows the substance, warmth and adaptability of beautifully common family love.
Publishers Weekly
It’s the Year of the Rabbit, according to Billy Miller’s new second-grade teacher. It’s also the year of several dilemmas for the boy, including the fear he might “start forgetting things” due to bumping his head while on vacation over the summer. Then there’s the habitat diorama that Billy is assigned—the bat cave he creates doesn’t turn out quite like he’d hoped. Henkes’s (Junonia) gentle slice-of-life novel, divided into four sections, humorously examines these and other plights while capturing the essence of Billy’s relationships with four significant figures in his life: his teacher (who he accidentally insults on the first day of school); his stay-at-home, struggling-artist father; his sometimes annoying, sometimes endearing three-year-old sister; and his mother, about whom Billy must compose a poem to be presented at the end of the school year. Each segment introduces a new conflict that Billy manages to resolve without too much fuss or torment. The book’s clear structure, concrete images, and just-challenging-enough vocabulary are smartly attuned to emerging readers, and its warmth, relatable situations, and sympathetic hero give it broad appeal. Ages 8–12. (Sept.)
Children's Literature - Claudia Mills
Kevin Henkes once again shows a masterful understanding of a child’s inner life in this gentle, meticulously observed chronicle of one boy’s second grade year. Billy starts second grade worried that the lump on his head, leftover from a tumble during summer vacation, may make him “not smart enough for second grade.” Soon, other worries emerge as well: that his teacher will think he was making fun of the chopsticks anchoring her hair when he mimed devil horns on the head of insufferable Emma; that his artist father’s crabbiness will persist while waiting for a creative breakthrough; that his sister Sal will continue to annoyingly and endlessly dote on the wonderfully named “Drop Sisters,” a family of five nearly identical plush whales (Raindrop, Dewdrop, Snowdrop, Gumdrop, and Lemondrop, soon to be joined by Coughdrop); that he will hurt Papa’s feelings if he writes his assigned poem about Mama instead. The small events of Billy’s life--that is, the kind of events that seem small to most adults but impossibly large to the children who experience them--are honored in Henkes’s clear-eyed, compassionate gaze. Henkes knows that when a usually good-natured parent raises his voice it feels “as if something in the universe had shifted.” He knows that a child believes he can will himself to stay up all night long, and in the morning he’ll be “a different person.” Kevin Henkes knows, and children can be grateful to have him as their chronicler and champion. Reviewer: Claudia Mills, Ph.D. AGERANGE: Ages 7 to 10.
Kirkus Reviews
Billy Miller's second-grade year is quietly spectacular in a wonderfully ordinary way. Billy's year begins with his worry over the lump on his head, a souvenir of a dramatic summer fall onto concrete: Will he be up to the challenges his new teacher promises in her letter to students? Quickly overshadowing that worry, however, is a diplomatic crisis over whether he has somehow offended Ms. Silver on the first day of school. Four sections--Teacher, Father, Sister and Mother--offer different and essential focal points for Billy's life, allowing both him and readers to explore several varieties of creative endeavor, small adventures, and, especially, both challenges and successful problem-solving. The wonderfully self-possessed Sal, his 3-year-old sister, is to Billy much as Ramona is to Beezus, but without the same level of tension. Her pillowcase full of the plush yellow whales she calls the Drop Sisters (Raindrop, Gumdrop, etc.) is a memorable prop. Henkes offers what he so often does in these longer works for children: a sense that experiences don't have to be extraordinary to be important and dramatic. Billy's slightly dreamy interior life isn't filled with either angst or boisterous silliness--rather, the moments that appear in these stories are clarifying bits of the universal larger puzzle of growing up, changing and understanding the world. Small, precise black-and-white drawings punctuate and decorate the pages. Sweetly low-key and totally accessible. (Fiction. 7-10)
Horn Book (starred review)
“A vivid yet secure portrait of a boy coming into his confidence . . . [with] a comfortable rhythm perfectly suited to young readers. . . . Nuanced and human.”
Booklist
“A story with a lot of heart.”
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
“Thoughtful kids able to tackle a book of this length will enjoy reading this on their own, but it would also make a fine choice for reading aloud in the classorom or home.”
School Library Journal
Gr 1–3—The beginning of a new school year brings anxious moments for Billy Miller, a typical second grader at Georgia O'Keeffe Elementary School in a small Wisconsin town. His new teacher, Ms. Silver, uses chopsticks to hold her hair in place and know-it-all Emma Sparks is unfortunately one of his desk mates. Just as a school year is divided into quarters, the book is divided into four parts-"Teacher," "Father," "Sister," and "Mother"-each offering a new perspective on Billy's personality and development through his interactions with these well-developed characters. He begins the school year with a lump on his head from a family-vacation incident and navigates glitter homework fiascos, canceled sleepover plans, and sibling annoyances as readers see the year unfold through funny and often poignant situations. Billy himself might have been daunted by a book with more than 200 pages, but eager young readers will find this a great first chapter book to share or read solo.—Cheryl Ashton, Amherst Public Library, OH
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062268129
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/17/2013
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 15,862
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 620L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Kevin Henkes

Kevin Henkes is the author and illustrator of close to fifty critically acclaimed and award-winning picture books, beginning readers, and novels. He received the Caldecott Medal for Kitten's First Full Moon in 2005. Kevin Henkes is also the creator of a number of picture books featuring his mouse characters, including the #1 New York Times bestsellers Lilly's Big Day and Wemberly Worried, the Caldecott Honor Book Owen, and the beloved Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse. His most recent mouse character, Penny, was introduced in Penny and Her Song (2012); her story continued in Penny and Her Doll and Penny and Her Marble (a Geisel Honor Book). Bruce Handy, in a New York Times Book Review piece about A Good Day, wrote, "It should be said: Kevin Henkes is a genius." Kevin Henkes received two Newbery Honors for novels—one for his newest novel for young readers, The Year of Billy Miller, and the other for Olive's Ocean. Also among his fiction for older readers are the novels Junonia, Bird Lake Moon, The Birthday Room, and Sun & Spoon. He lives with his family in Madison, Wisconsin.

Kevin Henkes is the author and illustrator of close to fifty critically acclaimed and award-winning picture books, beginning readers, and novels. He received the Caldecott Medal for Kitten's First Full Moon in 2005. Kevin Henkes is also the creator of a number of picture books featuring his mouse characters, including the #1 New York Times bestsellers Lilly's Big Day and Wemberly Worried, the Caldecott Honor Book Owen, and the beloved Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse. His most recent mouse character, Penny, was introduced in Penny and Her Song (2012); her story continued in Penny and Her Doll and Penny and Her Marble (a Geisel Honor Book). Bruce Handy, in a New York Times Book Review piece about A Good Day, wrote, "It should be said: Kevin Henkes is a genius." Kevin Henkes received two Newbery Honors for novels—one for his newest novel for young readers, The Year of Billy Miller, and the other for Olive's Ocean. Also among his fiction for older readers are the novels Junonia, Bird Lake Moon, The Birthday Room, and Sun & Spoon. He lives with his family in Madison, Wisconsin.

Biography

Kevin Henkes still owns some of his favorite books from childhood. "They're brimming with all the telltale signs of true love: dog-eared pages, fingerprints on my favorite illustrations, my name and address inscribed on both front and back covers in inch-high lettering, and the faint smell of stale peanut butter on the bindings," he says in an interview on his web site.

Back in his peanut-butter sandwich days, Henkes dreamed of becoming an artist. By high school, he had combined his love of drawing with a newfound interest in writing, and at age 19, he took his portfolio to New York City in hopes of finding a publisher. Young Henkes returned home from his weeklong trip with a contract from Greenwillow Books, and he's worked as a children's writer and illustrator ever since.

Henkes's style has evolved over the years to include more humor, more whimsy and a lot more mice. Though he began illustrating his picture books with realistic drawings of children, he's since developed a recurring cast of mouse characters rendered in a more cartoon-like style -- though with a range of expressions that make the spirited Lilly, anxious Wemberly, fearless Sheila Rae and sensitive Chrysanthemum into highly believable heroines. Owen, the story of a little mouse who isn't ready to give up his tattered security blanket, won a Caldecott Honor Medal for its winsome watercolor-and-ink illustrations.

Many of Henkes's mouse books deal with such common childhood ordeals as starting school, being teased and getting lost. Chrysanthemum, about a mouse whose new schoolmates tease her about her name, was inspired by Henkes's own feelings when he started school. "The book is about family, and how starting something new and going out into the world can be very hard," he told an interviewer for The Five Owls. "I remember going to kindergarten -- my grandfather had a beautiful rose garden, and he gave me the last roses of the season to bring to the kindergarten teacher the next day. I don't even remember how it happened, but an older kid took these flowers from me on the playground, and I remember coming home, feeling awful." As a grown-up, Henkes is able to translate difficult childhood transitions into stories that are both honest and reassuring. In a review of Chrysanthemum, Kirkus Reviews noted: "Henkes's language and humor are impeccably fresh, his cozy illustrations sensitive and funny, his little asides to adults an unobtrusive delight."

Henkes has also written novels for older children, in which he "explores family relationships with breathtaking tenderness" (Publisher's Weekly). In The Birthday Room, for example, a twelve-year-old boy learns the reason for his mother's long estrangement from her brother, and helps effect a reconciliation. "Refreshingly, Henkes has given us a male protagonist who is reflective, creative and emotionally sensitive," wrote Karen Leggett in The New York Times Book Review. "Ben feels the anguish of his mother's long-simmering bitterness and his uncle's agonizing guilt. Yet at a time when it is almost a fad to blame dysfunctional families for problems, we learn that even though there are never simple answers and not many fairy-tale endings, families can heal."

Though his novels are more complex and serious than his picture books, all Henkes's works suggest an author with deep empathy for the intense emotions of childhood. As a Publisher's Weekly reviewer wrote, "Behind each book is a wide-open heart, one readers can't help but respond to, that makes all of Henkes's books of special value to children."

Good To Know

Henkes's wife, Laura Dronzek, is also an artist. She painted the cover illustration for Henkes' novel Sun and Spoon and illustrated his picture book Oh!.

Henkes has turned down requests to use his mouse characters in a television series, but some of his books are available in video form in Chrysanthemum and More Kevin Henkes Stories. The video's narrators include Meryl Streep, Sarah Jessica Parker and Mary Beth Hurt.

Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse has been adapted into a stage play.

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    1. Hometown:
      Madison, Wisconsin
    1. Date of Birth:
      November 27, 1960
    2. Place of Birth:
      Racine, Wisconsin
    1. Education:
      University of Wisconsin, Madison
    2. Website:

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 10 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 10 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 11, 2014

    Yep.

    Woe. My little sister who is in 2nd grade had this read aloud in school, and loves it. She cant stop talking about the fantastic storyline and characters.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 7, 2014

    The year of billy miller is a good book its about a kid that is

    The year of billy miller is a good book its about a kid that is worried that he will not pass second grade grade.  He over heard his parents saying that
    when he fell and hit his head he started forgetting things. So he was like i'm not going to pass i'm not going to pass second grade. Later in
    t he book his dad said this is the year of billy miller.That made him happy! At the middle of the book he wanted to stay up late and in his room
    he though there was a monster so he went in his sisters room and stayed there. At the end he had passed second grade

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 11, 2014

    My littlsiter My little sitwrv My sister loves this book.

    Whoo

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 19, 2014

    i like it

    Its great

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 15, 2014

    I have given this book as a gift to two seven-year -old boys and

    I have given this book as a gift to two seven-year -old boys and both of them love it. The teacher of one of them has told the boy's mother that this book is a find! Perfect for her classroom collection!  
    The author has a gift for being able to get inside a child's mind and feelings and portray them in such a way as to help the reader grow and mature within himself and in his own relationships with others. 
    Although my hair is gray, I too enjoyed reading this book!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 13, 2014

    Awesome

    This book is cool. Kevin Henkes is my favorite author.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 14, 2013

    Beautifully written!

    My 7-year-old loves this book, and I really enjoy reading it to her.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted August 16, 2014

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    Posted May 23, 2014

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 10, 2014

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