The Year of Billy Miller

Kevin Henkes. Greenwillow, $16.99 (240p) ISBN 978-0-06-226812-9
It’s the Year of the Rabbit, according to Billy Miller’s new second-grade teacher. It’s also the year of several dilemmas for the boy, including the fear he might “start forgetting things” due to bumping his head while on vacation over the summer. Then there’s the habitat diorama that Billy is assigned—the bat cave he creates doesn’t turn out quite like he’d hoped. Henkes’s (Junonia) gentle slice-of-life novel, divided into four sections, humorously examines these and other plights while capturing the essence of Billy’s relationships with four significant figures in his life: his teacher (who he accidentally insults on the first day of school); his stay-at-home, struggling-artist father; his sometimes annoying, sometimes endearing three-year-old sister; and his mother, about whom Billy must compose a poem to be presented at the end of the school year. Each segment introduces a new conflict that Billy manages to resolve without too much fuss or torment. The book’s clear structure, concrete images, and just-challenging-enough vocabulary are smartly attuned to emerging readers, and its warmth, relatable situations, and sympathetic hero give it broad appeal. Ages 8–12. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/08/2013
Release date: 09/01/2013
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