July 21, 2014

The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 1:36 am by suebe2

The Year of Billy Miller
by Kevin Henkes
Greenwillow

On vacation with his family, Billy makes a hasty decision. When the wind blows his new Black Hills baseball cap off his head, he steps onto the middle rung of the guard rail to make a brilliant save.  Only, his save isn’t so brilliant and Billy falls.  He wakes up in the hospital with a lump on his head.  The doctor says he’s lucky not to have been hurt much worse, but Billy doesn’t feel lucky. What kind of kid falls like that and lands on his head?  Then he hears his parents talking about how the blow might make him forget things.

Now Billy is worried about starting second grade.  What if the lump on his head means that he won’t be smart enough?  What if it changes him in some crucial way?

From day 1 of second grade, Billy examines his interactions with his teacher and with his new classmates.  Did the teacher misunderstand what he said?  Maybe she thinks he’s mean, or not so smart, or both.  Mom and Dad do their best to reassure him but Billy needs to figure it out for himself.

The school year is divided into quarters and this book is as well — Teacher, Father, Sister, Mother.  Each story is about Billy maturing in how he deals with one of these people.  I know, that sounds pretty ho hum, but Henkes story is light and humorous and touching all at the same time.   Billy learns to relate to a knew teacher, helps his father through an artistic slump, comforts his sister and shows his mother just how much he cares.  With each mini-story, he gains a bit of confidence until he is sure that his mother was right — this is indeed The Year of Billy Miller.

The book as a whole may intimidate some less confident readers; it is after all a chunky 230 pages.  While each section builds on the one that preceeds it, they can be read individually with a healthy break in between.  This book is an excellent choice for competent readers who, like Billy, lack confidence in what they can achieve.

A light, fun, touching story.

–SueBE

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