The Year of Billy Miller



Warm, funny story of a year in the life of a second grader.

What parents need to know

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

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.

Not applicable

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.

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.

Families can talk 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?

Book details

Author:Kevin Henkes
Illustrator:Kevin Henkes
Genre:Family Life
Topics:Brothers and sisters, Friendship
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:September 17, 2013
Number of pages:240
Publisher's recommended age(s):8 - 12
Read aloud:8 - 12
Read alone:8 - 12
Available on:Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
Awards:ALA Best and Notable Books, Newbery Medal and Honors

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Parent of a 8 year old Written byNewtownMom May 28, 2014
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
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 other families should know
Great messages


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