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The Year of Billy Miller Hardcover – September 17, 2013

4.4 out of 5 stars 110 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 1-3-The beginning of a new school year brings anxious moments for Billy Miller, a typical second grader at Georgia O'Keeffe Elementary School in a small Wisconsin town. His new teacher, Ms. Silver, uses chopsticks to hold her hair in place and know-it-all Emma Sparks is unfortunately one of his desk mates. Just as a school year is divided into quarters, the book is divided into four parts-"Teacher," "Father," "Sister," and "Mother"-each offering a new perspective on Billy's personality and development through his interactions with these well-developed characters. He begins the school year with a lump on his head from a family-vacation incident and navigates glitter homework fiascos, canceled sleepover plans, and sibling annoyances as readers see the year unfold through funny and often poignant situations. Billy himself might have been daunted by a book with more than 200 pages, but eager young readers will find this a great first chapter book to share or read solo.-Cheryl Ashton, Amherst Public Library, OHα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

Billy Miller is starting second grade, and though his teacher, Mrs. Silver, tells the class it is the Year of the Rabbit, Billy’s father tells him it will be the Year of Billy Miller. Billy isn’t sure. He’s even more worried when he gets off on the wrong foot his first day, but as the months go on, Billy begins to shine. There are some wonderful moments here: when Billy brings his teacher silver items—coins, a paper clip, a little rabbit—to show her he’s a nice boy; when he agonizes over how to tell his father that Papa is a babyish name; and a triumphant ending when poetry and self-confidence intertwine. But the school year also seems rushed, and some intriguing characters, like the annoying Emma, are barely touched. Harkening back to writers of an earlier era, like Eleanor Estes, Henkes never compromises his language. Words like replicated, diligently, and frustrated appear—and that’s on just one page. Since this is so age specific, older readers might pass it by. That would be too bad, because this is a story with a lot of heart and sweet insights into growing up. Illustrations unseen. High-Demand Backstory: There’s no more versatile producer of children’s books working today than Henkes. Libraries, with great justification, are always interested in what he’s up to now. Grades 3-7. --Ilene Cooper
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 620L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Greenwillow Books (September 17, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062268120
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062268129
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (110 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #46,309 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on September 29, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I don't readily compare books to Ramona (now THERE'S a sentence opener, ladies and gentlemen). To compare any children's book to Beverly Cleary's classic series just leaves one wide open to ridicule. The Ramona books are classics for a very particular reason; they place a sturdy, hard-as-nails finger directly on an age that is traditionally forgotten. Kids between the ages of six and ten are nebulous creatures. Too old to be cute little itty bitties and too young to enjoy the rights and privileges of their older kin, the 6-10 year old crowd straddles our traditional age ranges. Walk into any library or bookstore and you'll see titles for kids separated in a very particular fashion: picture books, easy readers (for when they're first learning to read), early chapter books (self-explanatory), and middle grade fiction. What's missing is what the Ramona books are. They're older than early chapter fiction but younger than middle grade. There is no term for this kind of book, and indeed it's one of the most difficult types of books to locate on a shelf. Now, at long last, The Year of Billy Miller comes to occupy that same space, but its similarities to Ramona don't stop there. Filled with heart, smarts, humor, and a boy-centric p.o.v. that is almost impossible to pin down, Henkes has finally done for the chapter book set what he's been doing for the picture book readers for years. He's created a character for the ages.

Billy Miller wasn't always worried that he wouldn't be smart enough for second grade. To be blunt, the idea never even entered his brain. Then he fell. It wasn't life-threatening or anything but that fall from a guardrail to the ground certainly gave him a bump on the noggin.
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Format: Hardcover
This is the story of, wait for it, Billy Miller. The book takes us from the start of 2nd grade to the end. This is a short book with fairly large print, but it's not just a "ready for chapter books" sort of book.

It features Billy's fears and worries and accomplishments. School stories are very popular, but tend to either feature bratty girls or older kids facing different concerns than a younger elementary school kid. I love that Billy's problems are totally age appropriate, and examine the feelings -- not just the events of trouble or misunderstandings.

If you don't think your kid would go for a more heartfelt story (there's humor, too!), do it as a read-aloud. Even better, because it might open the door to discuss his fears and worries.
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Format: Kindle Edition
There are lots of great books out there for middle graders and older elementary schoolers. There are lots of fun and interesting pre-school and very early reader books. Whole franchises have been built around simple chapter books. And, there are certainly some fine books for adventurous second grade readers. But, most of those second grader books are introductory level fantasy/adventures or semi-frantic sort-of-zany school daze tales. Then we have "The Year of Billy Miller". It would be easy to rhapsodize about this book and I certainly wouldn't fault anyone for doing so. It is calm, gentle, sweet and knowing, but for all that it takes considerable risks.

Billy is entering second grade and has doubts about his ability to handle it. On top of that, as the story progresses, he has concerns about a variety of other problems that can plague 7 year olds - like whether his new teacher likes him, how to address his parents in a more "grown up" manner, how to deal with anger at his younger sister, nightmares, and the list goes on. Now, this isn't a "problem" novel or a disguised parenting manual. It is an engaging sort-of-stream-of-consciousness novel in which an appealing decent kid expresses his hopes and fears and joys in an honest and authentic fashion. The author's genius is in expressing all of those thoughts in a convincing and not at all precious manner, in avoiding or at least completely refashioning all school story clichés, and then in arranging the action and developing the plot in such a way that Billy's various issues are addressed and resolved in a satisfying and usually touching way.

Treatment of all of the characters is generous. Billy's Momma and Papa are well rounded; sister Sal is alternately annoying and lovable; the teacher Ms.
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Format: Hardcover
I hate to be a dissenting opinion, but reading some of this book to my 7-year-old was one of the biggest mistakes I ever made.

I thought if my son heard about how a kid's worries worked out well in a story, he wouldn't be anxious about starting 2nd grade. I believe this book contributed to his anxiety, and he ended up very anxious during the first month of the school year. In each chapter, Billy has a new worry. As soon as it is somewhat resolved (although not really fully resolved) by the end of the chapter, a new worry replaces it. It just seems like worry after worry, and the kid isn't able to look on the bright side or point out things he is happy about (which I can't blame him considering all his worries).

I wish the content, problems, and worries were presented better. My kids are very optimistic, they like to look on the bright side, and when they have a problem, they like to discuss options for solving the problem. I don't see Billy doing much problem solving. Perhaps Billy's problems are all solved in the end of this book, but we never made it to the end. My sons (7 and 6) asked me to stop reading it half way through.

I have been reading novels to my kids for years. They have never asked me to stop reading one before this one. I'm glad other kids seem to like this; unfortunately, mine did not.

The writing quality is excellent, and that's why I gave it 2 stars, but that is the only reason. I would give the writing 5 stars if I could review writing quality by itself.
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