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Page history last edited by RichiesPicks 6 years, 8 months ago

9 August 2013 THE YEAR OF BILLY MILLER by Kevin Henkes, Greenwillow, September 2013, 240p., ISBN: 978-0-06-226815-0


"Talk to me some more

You don't have to go

You're the poetry man

And you make things all right"

-- Phoebe Snow (1974)


"Billy wriggled his hand into his pocket and pulled out his silver things.  The nail got caught and made a little rip in his pocket.  His hands were clammy.  'Here,' he said.  'These are silver like your name.'

"Ms. Silver took the items and held them in both hands the way she'd held the nest.  'Are these for me?' she asked.

"Billy inclined his head shyly and softened his voice to a whisper.  'I'm really a nice person,' he said.  He couldn't look at her, but he could feel her eyes upon him like a net.  His heart was thrumming.

"'I can tell you're a nice person,' she said.

"Billy sighed.

"'A very nice person.'

"Billy felt great relief.

"'Tell me about this rabbit,' said Ms. Silver."


I am so totally wowed by the extent to which we repeatedly are privy to the inner musings and processing of feelings of second-grader Billy Miller in Kevin Henkes's THE YEAR OF BILLY MILLER.  It makes me seriously wish that I could temporarily morph into a second- or third-grade teacher, so as to experience the satisfaction of reading aloud this gem-of-a-tale to a classroom of young students. 


Billy Miller heads into his second grade year shortly after experiencing a mishap involving his new baseball cap and the lookout platform that is situated between the feet of the (55.5 foot-tall) Jolly Green Giant statue in Blue Earth, Minnesota.  His natural apprehension over the beginning of a new school year is multiplied by his recognition of his parents worries about him and the fine lump on his head he gained in his fall from that lookout platform. 


Is he smart enough, he wonders, for second grade?


The new school year also brings challenges resulting from a girl in his class with whom Billy quickly develops a mutual antagonism, and a restlessness on the part of Billy's father, who stays home with Billy's little sister and who is seeking success and fulfillment with his artwork. 


"Billy sighed.  He realized that as soon as one problem is solved, something else is right there, waiting to take up your time."


Among the highlights of the other challenges he faces over the course of the school year is his coming to terms with having a younger sibling.  There is also the fun self-challenge of trying to stay awake all night long.  And the challenge of writing and then performing a poem before classmates, parents, and other relatives.  This is all written about in such a genuine, heart-based, and thoughtful manner, and is a book I would have loved back in my own young years.  


A high-level transitional reader structured in four sections, Teacher, Father, Sister, and Mother, THE YEAR OF BILLY MILLER is an absolutely beautiful and wonderful read.   


Richie Partington, MLIS
Richie's Picks http://richiespicks.com
Moderator http://groups.yahoo.com/group/middle_school_lit/



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