Study Guide

The Year of Billy Miller Summary

By Kevin Henkes

The Year of Billy Miller Summary

Here's the long and short of it, folks: Billy survives second grade. It starts out rough, but by the end he's actually had a pretty awesome year. And that's that.

Okay, okay, there's a lot more to the story. So here we go.

Picture this: It's the end of summer vacation and Billy slips big time. His fall leaves a ginormous lump on his head and some major fears about the upcoming school year. You see, it's time for Billy to start second grade and now he's worried that it might be the worst year yet. Good thing Billy has a supportive Mama and Papa and a pesky but fun little sis named Sal to keep him company no matter what.

When Billy starts school, he realizes that his teacher is pretty great. Her name is Ms. Silver and she's got creative education in the bag. What's not-so-great, however, is the class know-it-all, Emma Sparks. She teases Billy from the get-go and, well, Billy teases her right back.

Now here's where things get sticky. When Billy pokes fun at Emma, he worries that he's also accidentally insulted Ms. Silver. Uh oh… So Billy finds some cool silver objects to give Ms. S as an I'm-really-a-nice-guy-I-swear present and everything is cool. Plus, Ms. S tells Billy that she thinks he's smart, which rocks.

Remember how we said that Ms. S is really into being creative in the classroom? She asks the kids to make dioramas of their chosen animal habitat. Billy makes a pretty awesome bat cave alongside his pal Ned, and his little sis, and he gets loads of help from Papa, since his pops is both a stay-at-home dad and an artist. Yep, Papa puts together different odds and ends that he finds around town to make seriously cool pieces of art.

So there are two surprising events that happen all thanks to these dioramas:

Surprising Event (1): The Glitter Debacle. Everything is going well with the diorama until Sal decides to pour glitter on Billy's bat cave. After freaking out for a bit, Papa comes up with a solution—the glitter is like a sparkly mineral called mica. Just like that, Billy changes his tune and figures the glitter is a-okay. Ms. Silver agrees.

Surprising Event (2): Dad's Dioramas. Billy's Papa has been searching for some inspiration, and Billy gives him the idea of working on dioramas. And seriously, these art pieces rock—Billy's dad even sells some at a gallery.

And speaking of that gallery, when Mama and Papa are away at the art show in Chicago, Sal and Billy have a babysitter named Gabby. The big headline that night is that Billy wants to try to stay up all night for the first time ever, and he recruits Sal to be his partner-in-crime.

Sal hops on board. Now the bad news is that Sal and Billy end up falling asleep, so that stinks, but the good news is that they also form a seriously tight bond. In fact, Billy decides to give Sal his special dragon pearl and write her a neat note with his cool dragon-stamped envelope.

By the time second grade is almost over, Billy has one more challenge to overcome: writing a poem. And boy does he think this is a challenge. Eventually he decides to write a poem about his mom that he can perform at the end-of-the-year show. Billy tries his best to memorize it, but when he's on stage he forgets the words, and that bums him out like whoa.

So Billy doesn't totally meet his goal, but his mom is still proud as all get-out. And when Billy tries again after the show and recites the poem by heart into a silent microphone, he proves to himself that he really is a smarty-pants kid. And you can bet that Mama thinks so, too. Hurrah, Billy.

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