year of billy miller

The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes

After getting a big lump on his head from a fall during their family vacation, Billy is worried that he’s not going to be smart enough for 2nd grade.  And when he starts 2nd grade, he still has a lump on his head!  The year doesn’t start easily with Billy accidentally insulting his new teacher on the very first day.  He has to figure out how to fix the misunderstanding before she gets the wrong idea about him.  Then Billy’s father who is a stay-at-home dad and an artist is trying to find his next breakthrough in his art.  It is Billy who has to learn how to deal with a grumpy father but along the way he also serves as inspiration for his dad.  When his parents go to his father’s gallery show, Billy tries to stay up all night, keeping his little sister up with him for as long as he can.  Finally, he selects his mother as the person he wants to write a poem about.  But it’s not that easy, since he has to make sure he doesn’t insult anyone with his choice and then has to read his poem aloud in front of an audience.  Along the way, Billy learns a lot about how to act in a family, how to support one another but mostly how to love each other.

Henkes has written a book about a boy that will be perfect for fans of Clementine and Ramona.  Happily, he does not resort to grossness, bodily functions, farting or any of the other plot devices so often used in books about boys.  Here instead we have a real boy, one who makes mistakes but also tries to do what is right for his family.  Broken into chapters that are focused on a single relationship: teacher, father, sister, and mother, this book is welcoming to young readers thanks to its logical structure and clear focus.

The black and white art in the book is done by Henkes.  Unfortunately, the digital galley I read did not include much of the art.  What was in the galley adds much to the book, nicely breaking the text into more manageable parts.

A tip top chapter book, this one is destined to be a classic.  I’d think that sharing it would be a great way to start any 2nd grade school year.  Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Edelweiss and Greenwillow Books.