The Year of Billy Miller

Book review by
Barbara Schultz, Common Sense Media
The Year of Billy Miller Book Poster Image
Warm, funny story of a year in the life of a second-grader.

Parents say

age 8+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 7+
Based on 2 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Readers learn a little about different animal habitats and forms of poetry, as well as about Chinese New Year traditions.

Positive Messages

Billy learns that family members will always help one another solve problems.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Mr. and Mrs. Miller set a fine example as partners and parents. They're supportive, patient, loving and calm, even when -- in Papa's case -- work is causing a lot of stress. Billy's teacher, Mrs. Silver, is also a terrific adult role model; she urges the children to learn and do their best work in a way that's always encouraging.

Violence & Scariness

Billy tries to scare himself into staying up all night by imagining a creepy monster. The description of the creature he dreams up is quite gross and scary. In another scene, a bird flies into a window and dies.


What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Year of Billy Miller is a middle-grade chapter book from Caldecott Medal-winning author-illustrator Kevin Henkes, whose small black-and-white spot illustrations help break up the text. The story follows Billy through his second-grade year -- in school at at home -- during which he learns about problem solving and even helps his artist dad find creative inspiration. The book has one scary page, where Billy dreams up a gross imaginary monster, and one sad/violent even where a bird flies into a window. In general, Billy faces little kid problems and solves them with the help of his loving family.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byKathryn G. April 29, 2019

Quaint and Fun

This was a fun story. None of the content was very deep, but it represented a child's perspective of second grade fairly well. No qualms about allowing a c... Continue reading
Parent of a 8-year-old Written byNewtownMom May 28, 2014
Kid, 9 years old March 24, 2020

Could be better

If there was a little bit more of an adventure it would be an amazing book. This book was about getting over your fears in the second grade.
Kid, 8 years old December 30, 2014

Good book

This book shows that when things aren't right, you can always ask for help.

What's the story?

The title THE YEAR OF BILLY MILLER refers to the second-grade year of the main character. The story is divided into four sections -- "Teacher," "Father," "Sister," "Mother" -- each of which focuses on Billy's relationship with a specific character. In the first section, Billy begins the school year and wants to impress his new teacher. In "Father," Papa -- a stay-at-home dad and artist -- helps Billy and his friend with school projects, and Billy gives his dad some creative inspiration. "Sister" features frustrating, funny, sweet sibling situations between Billy and preschooler Sal. And in "Mother," Billy has warm moments with his mom as his school year draws to a close.

Is it any good?

This is not one of those "little kid with big problems" stories; Billy is a little kid with little problems, but they'll be quite amusing to middle-graders. Kids will relate to Billy's frustration when his little sister almost spoils his school project, or a big sleepover gets canceled. And they'll be on the edge of their seats when Billy suffers from stagefright during his class performance. Billy's year is full of warm, funny everyday stories told with love.

Henkes' small, intermittent black-and-white spot illustrations help break up the text.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Familes can talk about parental roles in families. In Billy's family, Mama works as a schoolteacher and Papa stays home to take care of Billy and Sal. How is Billy's family like yours, and how is it different? How does Billy's family compare to other families you've read about?

  • Billy's poetry assignment is to write about one member of his family. Which member of your family would you choose if you were Billy? Try writing a poem about that person.

  • Billy chooses to make his diorama a bat cave. What's your favorite animal, and where does it live?

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