The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes is a realistic volume detailing the ordinary events in one second grader’s year. I loved how the most ordinary difficulties were the subject of Billy’s story. In this year, Billy learned overcome worries about his own abilities in school, dealing with the conflicts he feels with his young sister, and his relationship with the world as a 7-going-on-8 child. Since my son also is seven-nearly-eight and he too has a three-year-old sister, I felt like this book came at the perfect time for him. He really enjoyed it, staying up way past bedtime in order to finish it and see just how Billy’s year ended up.
Billy begins the school year with a bit of trepidation, since a recent fall during vacation introduced him to concern about his brain being hurt. But once his teacher helps him regain his confidence, all is right again. Billy also must struggle with his little sister’s annoyance, as well as his relationship to his mother (who works full time) and his father (a struggling artist turned stay-at-home dad). I loved how none of the events of his year (except maybe his fall during the previous summer) could be labeled as a huge, life-changing moment. Yet, put together, Billy is a lovable kid having a typical life as he grows up.
Beyond the basic plot events, I also appreciated that Billy was a polite and mannered boy. So many times in fiction I feel like the boys are the rambunctious crazy ones. That’s not to say Billy did not have his moments (he did). But I feel that children’s literature needs more boys like Billy Miller to fit along side the antics of the Ramonas, Ivy & Bean, and Clemintines of the fictional universe. I loved the sincerity of the boy in this book!
This book was well deserving of the Newbery Honor last year.