On the first day of school, Billy Miller worries that he’s not smart enough for second grade. That’s the first of many trying moments for Billy, all portrayed in the four episodic sections of this charming chapter book. Billy fears that his teacher doesn’t like him, tries to stay up all night for the first time, discovers the value of little sisters and aims to write the perfect poem for his mother. Author Kevin Henkes handles every situation with sensitivity and gentle realism.
Pressured by classmates to switch from calling his father “Papa” to “Dad,” Billy finds himself in a difficult stage of childhood. He’s no longer a cute toddler like his younger sister, nor is he old enough to stay home alone. His year becomes, then, a time for growing up.
Despite his many worries, Billy also finds joy and comfort as he begins to discover his talents, forge deeper bonds with his family and rely on a quiet resilience.
Although The Year of Billy Miller has no underwear jokes, bodily fluids or crime-fighting superheroes, it is solidly a book for boys. Henkes brilliantly captures Billy’s view of the world from a male perspective. With so few books that tackle boys’ true emotions, this rare novel stands out for both its subject matter and its exquisite storytelling. While girls may relate to Ramona, now boys can claim Billy Miller.