Study Guide

The Year of Billy Miller

By Kevin Henkes

The Year of Billy Miller Introduction

We've met some pretty cool kids in our time. Kids with magical talents or smarty pants brains. And now we've got a new kid in town: meet Billy Miller.

Okay, so Billy might not have a cool wand like Harry or the ability to do calculus in his head like Matilda, but he does go through a pretty great year in second grade. And in Kevin Henkes's children's book, The Year of Billy Miller, we get the full scoop on Billy, and then some.

Here's the sitch: Billy is about to start second grade when an accident during summer vacation gives him a gigantic bump on his head. Ouch. Oh, and then he hears his parents talking about how maybe that bump caused some damage. And maybe second grade will be seriously hard. And maybe—just maybe—this will be the most nerve-wracking year of Billy's young life.

So Billy's story is off to a rough start, but over time he actually makes some pretty great discoveries about himself. With his Papa, Mama, and little sis, Sal, in tow, Billy ends up having a seriously interesting year. And along the way are a few unexpected moments like:

  • The glitter incident (dun dun dun)
  • A classroom bully and her grandma
  • A cello with four fake arms (true story)
  • A new pal called Coughdrop
  • A good-luck pearl
  • Some dragon tales

Yep, The Year of Billy Miller doesn't just give us a run-of-the-mill tale about second grade. Instead we've got an adventure that reminds us how every kid's journey has its own unique twists and turns. And that makes this a fun read.

But don't just take our word for it. When Henkes published The Year of Billy Miller in 2013, it started flying off the shelves faster than Billy's flying bat (oh yeah, there's one of those in this book, too). And it's no surprise, really, since Henkes has published dozens of books for kids, so he's a pro.

Honestly, we can't find a person who doesn't like this lighthearted tale. And the folks who gave the book the prestigious Newbery Honor agree.

What is The Year of Billy Miller About and Why Should I Care?

We've all been there: Sometimes it's scary to look into the future. And when the future means starting second grade with a big bump on your head and a mean know-it-all in your class, things can look pretty bleak.

Have you ever been a wee bit nervous about the road ahead? Maybe you've dreaded an upcoming test, or been scared about starting a new sport. Well Billy Miller is right there, too. When he begins second grade, he's got a huge lump on his head from a summer vacation accident and school isn't all it's cracked up to be. So now he's super nervous that maybe he can't hack it in this thing called second grade.

But over time, Billy finds out that the only way to get through the nerves is to dive right in. Sure, it's tough sometimes, and we're not saying it won't be scary, but in the end, Billy ends up surviving that daunting year in second grade. And he gets a pretty good story out of it, too.

The Year of Billy Miller Resources

Websites

Greetings, Kevin and Billy
Check out author Kevin Henkes's website and see his intro to The Year of Billy Miller.

And the Winner is… Kevin Henkes
Henkes was awarded a Newbery Honor for The Year of Billy Miller and now you get to find out why.

Articles and Interviews

Getting to Know Mr. Henkes
Check out this interview and read all about how Kevin Henkes had childhood dreams of being an artist.

Kudos, Kevin—You Rock
We're not surprised that critics love this book, just like in this New York Times review.

Billy Miller on Top of the World
The Year of Billy Miller gets two thumbs up when it comes to writing for kiddos.

Video

Q&A with Mr. Henkes, the Man Himself
You're about to get to know the inspiration behind Billy Miller. Oh, and some other cool books Henkes has written, too.

An Ad for the Young at Heart
Watch this creative video and you'll get hooked to Billy's story. Stat.

Images

Billy Miller, Cover Story
Sneak a peek at the cover for The Year of Billy Miller and you'll get a hint at Billy's first hurdle.