Billy Miller Makes a Wish by Kevin Henkes (Greenwillow, April 2021) continues the story of the sweet boy from The Year of Billy Miller, a growing up book with realistic kid-appropriate situations to enjoy and possibly learn from. Once again, Billy Miller Makes a Wish manages to capture a child’s realistic thoughts about how his life is connected with the lives of those around him. And Henkes manages to write a complex kid-appropriate novel that takes place in just a few short days!
On Billy Miller’s birthday, his wish is that something exciting will happen. Soon thereafter, he sees an ambulance racing by! This excitement is dimmed when he finds out that the ambulance was for an elderly neighbor who has passed away. When other exciting things happen, he realizes that exciting doesn’t mean “good.” Billy faces both new and unknown situations, and he begins to think all these “exciting” things are his fault because of his wish.
I felt like Billy’s concerns were very realistic to a young child. After all, my kids think they are the center of the universe. To start seeing “exciting” things like this could very easily, in a young mind, transfer to the conclusion that the happenings were “his fault.” I read this with my 7-year-old daughter and she understood just why Billy Miller thought things were his fault, and we had good discussion as to why they certainly were not!
Billy Miller Makes a Wish has some very memorable scenes as well as very funny scenes, even though Billy’s thoughtful and internal character realizations may not feel exciting when you read about here. After all, if these were exciting events for Billy Miller himself, they are sure to be exciting for other kids just like him. I don’t know how Kevin Henkes does it, but he knocked it out of the park again with this book.