Study Guide

The Year of Billy Miller

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.

  • Part 1, Chapter 1


    • When we dive into this story, we learn that our main man Billy is a worrywart. Yep, he's about to start second grade and he's nervous as all get-out.
    • Plus, he's not just worried about school.
    • You see, a couple weeks earlier Billy was on a family trip to see a statue of the Jolly Green Giant (he's the mascot for all those green veggies). Billy is a big ball of excitement about getting to see this huge green man with his Mama, Papa, and little sis, a three-year-old sass-machine named Sally, though you can call her Sal.
    • But when Billy's hat flies off at the statue and he falls trying to catch it, the trip takes a serious turn. Yikes.
    • The great news is that Billy isn't actually hurt at all. He's just got a big fat lump on his head, which he thinks is pretty cool. And so does his best bud, Ned. But the stinky news is that Billy's parents are worried that there's more damage than meets the eye. And you can bet that has Billy's stomach in knots.
    • And that brings us back to the first day of second grade and all those nervous jitters. As Billy eats breakfast before school, we learn some quick facts about three super important people in his life:
    • Quick Fact about Mama: She's a high school English teacher.
    • Quick Fact about Papa: He's an artist who also stays home to watch over Sal. Plus he makes art out of "found objects" (1.1.26) that he gathers from all over, and Billy thinks that's just the best.
    • Quick Fact about Ms. Silver: That's the name of Billy's new second grade teacher. And she sounds swell.
    • Papa reads part of a letter that Ms. Silver wrote to all of her students, and Ms. S says that this is the Year of the Rabbit according to the Chinese calendar. Fingers crossed that this means Billy is going to have a seriously good year.
  • Part 1, Chapter 2

    • It's time to leave for school and Sal comes along with her favorite stuffed animals, a bunch of stuffed whales that she calls the Drop Sisters. Each has her own snazzy name: Gumdrop, Dewdrop, Raindrop, Lemondrop, and Snowdrop. Oh, and Sal carries them around in a pillowcase.
    • With all these whales, Billy has quite the gang heading with him to school. We've got Papa, Sal, and the Drop Sisters, plus Ned and his mom. Go team.
    • On the walk, we learn that Ned calls Billy's dad Papa just like Billy does, since apparently Ned thought that Papa was Mr. Miller's first name when they were young, and it just kind of stuck. The whole thing reminds Billy that maybe he should start calling his own father Dad like all the other kids. He sure doesn't want to stand out as the weirdo in second grade.
    • When Billy and Ned get to school, they head into Room 2, and just like that, there's officially no avoiding second grade.
  • Part 1, Chapter 3

    • It's finally time to meet Ms. Silver. She's a blond lady who wears her hair up in a bun with red chopsticks, and she seems pretty organized since she's got nametags already out for her students to find their seats.
    • Our guy Billy doesn't even look for his nametag and just sits next to Ned. Well the owner of his seat turns out to be a bossy girl named Emma Sparks and she's not about to have her seat taken, so she makes Billy move to his assigned seat and that's that.
    • Oh—and when Emma introduces herself there's a wee bit of a misunderstanding. You see, she says that her nickname is "Emster" but Billy thinks she says "Hamster." And you can bet that causes some giggles in this second grade classroom.
    • When it's time for everyone to introduce themselves, Emma goes for a little payback. Billy tells the class his name and that he's a second-grader, and Emma thinks that factoid is just about the most uncreative thing ever. So she tells Billy that he's dumb and she doesn't let it go. The whole thing ticks Billy off so much that he mocks Emma by holding up red markers as if they're devil horns.
    • Okay, now this is when things get complicated. Remember those red chopsticks in Ms. S's hair? Well when Ms. Silver sees Billy with the markers and touches her own chopsticks, Billy realizes that he made it seem like he was making fun of his teacher. Oh no…
  • Part 1, Chapter 4

    • After school, Billy doesn't feel like talking about his class. At all. And we can't blame him. But Sal is a chatterbox about how she can read two letters now: A and I.
    • The best part about coming home from school is that Billy gets to see the new "treasures" (1.4.26) his dad has collected. He's got everything from a beat-up cello to an old telephone, and Papa's going to try to make it all into something special.
    • Papa asks if Billy or Sal have any inspiration for him.
    • Sal's favorite treasure is a silver ball because it's shiny, she can see her reflection, and it's silver like Ms. Silver's name. What's not to love?
    • Well Billy might not love the silver ball (he thinks the telephone is super snazzy), but all this talk of silver does give him an idea for how to show Ms. S that he's a cool dude.
  • Part 1, Chapter 5

    • Okay, so it's time for our head honcho to put his show-Miss-Silver-that-Billy-Miller-is-nice plan into action.
    • Step One: Go hunting for silver. Billy gathers up as many silver items as he can find. Mostly its just coins and paperclips, but he also finds a small silver rabbit on his desk. It had been his mom's and Billy figures it's the perfect piece to impress Ms. S.
    • Step Two: Head to school. Billy and Ned arrive at school just in time to share some mean-spirited teasing with Emma. She mocks Billy for being in the second grade, he calls her hamster—you know how it goes.
    • Step Three: Figure out how to give Ms. S the gift. The whole time they're supposed to be working on drawings of different habitats, Billy is trying to figure out how to give Ms. S all his silver doodads. In the meantime there's more teasing with Emma (go figure), and Billy draws a bat cave for his animal habitat.
    • Step Four: Go for it. When everyone heads out for recess, Billy pretends to be searching for something under his desk, and when he and Ms. Silver are alone, he whips out the silver objects.
    • Step Five: Breathe a sigh of a relief. Yep, Ms. S thinks the silver pieces are pretty cool.
    • So it turns out that this whole mission was a success, because Ms. S tells Billy that she knows he's a nice guy. Now that's a big relief for our main man. Plus she tells Billy to hold onto the rabbit and coins so the whole shebang is a win-win.
    • And it gets even better: When Billy tells Ms. S that he's been worried about being smart enough for second grade because of that nasty lump on his head, she's super reassuring. She says she knows he's a smarty-pants, and that makes Billy feel all warm and gooey inside. Us too.
  • Part 2, Chapter 1


    • It's October now, which means school is well underway. Actually, life sounds pretty great for the Millers. It's the weekend and Mama is making a yummy breakfast with Sal. Plus Papa's been working on some cool art projects in the garage, too.
    • When Billy checks out how his dad took an old cello and stuck mannequin arms in it, our main man thinks this artwork is neato burrito. But the big bummer is that Papa doesn't seem super pleased, so that stinks. In fact, he's grumpy as can be.
    • That afternoon Ned is coming over because it's diorama time (a.k.a. when you take a box and build a miniature model inside it). Remember when Billy's class was learning about animal habitats and he drew a bat cave? (Hop back to Part 1, Chapter 5 for the full scoop and then meet us back here.) Well now he gets to make a model of a bat cave with his diorama, which is pretty cool.
    • Sal wants to join in the diorama fun, too, so she fetches the Drop Sisters to be her sidekicks.
  • Part 2, Chapter 2

    • It's diorama time, so everyone gathers supplies together and Mama pulls out three shoeboxes that Ned, Billy, and Sal can use. Papa, the master artist around these parts, is on hand to help out.
    • Since Ned wants to make a sea habitat, he's got some seashells ready to rock and roll in his diorama. And Sal is psyched because she gets to use glitter on her sea habitat.
    • And then there's hard-working Billy. He's putting some serious time and effort into his bat cave diorama. Sure, he gets frustrated while he's struggling to make a big bat look like it can fly, but eventually he and his dad figure the whole thing out.
    • So everything should be good, right? Well not so fast. Billy is feeling like his bat cave is looking pretty awesome until he compares it to Ned's and Sal's—their underwater dioramas both look seriously snazzy with different colors for the ocean.
    • Now all those warm fuzzy feelings of awesomeness go down the drain for poor Billy, and he's left feeling mad at the whole world, including his dad, for his diorama not looking cool enough. And it doesn't help when Sal and Ned tease Billy, too.
    • You can guess that at this point Papa gets annoyed at the whole situation. So Mama comes in to help clean up.
  • Part 2, Chapter 3

    • Perk up, Shmoopers, because Billy has decided that he likes his diorama again. Actually he kind of loves it. He's been checking it out all day, and with a wee bit of time, he's realized just how cool his creation really is.
    • That night, Billy spreads his good cheer to his dad. After they say goodnight, Billy has a great idea for his dad's next art project—and since they were working on dioramas all day, you just know he's got to be thinking about dioramas. Apparently Papa has a bunch of cigar boxes that Billy figures he could use to make dioramas in. Papa seems seriously intrigued by the idea.
    • The next day, it's Sal who's got good cheer coming out of her ears. And that's because she loves glitter like nobody's business and it's ended up all over the table and floor after the diorama project. This little lady thinks it's fairy dust, which Billy knows is just cuckoo.
    • So Billy enjoys his breakfast before school while Sal gushes about glitter. And the next thing you know, Billy sees Sal pouring some of the glitter from her diorama into his, making his bat cave all sparkly. Um, that's really not cool, Sal.
    • Of course Billy is angry as can be, but luckily Papa has some ideas for getting rid of the glitter, so they get to work:
    • Papa's Idea One: Tapping the diorama over the trash. That only sort of works.
    • Papa's Idea Two: Using a blow dryer to get rid of the glitter. A bunch comes off the hanging bat, but there's tons of glitter everywhere else in the cave. Now Billy is getting desperate.
    • Papa's Idea Three: Making that glitter into something good. Billy might not like the glitter at first, but then Papa explains that caves can have minerals in them, like mica, that sparkle a ton. Looked at this way, the horrible glitter is actually something pretty cool.
    • So it's great and all that Billy's diorama looks good, but now he's late for school. His dad drives him, though, and he makes it just in the nick of time. Phew.
    • Since everything is hunky dory, this seems like just the right time for Emma to make Billy feel like rotten eggs. When she hears Billy say "Thank you, Papa!" to his dad, she tells him that "Papa" sounds seriously "babyish" (2.3.75, 78). Bummer.
  • Part 2, Chapter 4

    • Billy presents his diorama to the class and it's a big hit; Ms. S loves the glitter, so that's one point for Sal.
    • Oh, and Emma teases Billy some more about saying "Papa," which makes him super peeved.
    • After school, Papa wants to know the scoop and is stoked that Ms. S liked the glitter/mica.
    • Since Sal is taking a nap, Billy and his dad get some alone time together, which is perfect because Billy has a big topic to bring up: not calling his dad Papa anymore.
    • Billy just goes for it and asks his pops if he can start calling him Dad, and Papa says that is totally fine. Billy also wants to tell his mom that he'll start calling her Mom instead of Mama when she gets home from work. (FYI, Shmoopers, Billy might have changed his mind on names, but the book's narrator sticks with his old habits. Yep, the narrator still calls Billy's parents Mama and Papa, so that's what we do, too.)
    • Since it feels weird at first to call his dad by a new name, Billy and Papa practice together. And this actually turns out to be pretty fun.
  • Part 2, Chapter 5

    • When Mama arrives home, Billy has some news for her: She's Mom now. And sure, Mama is a little sad, but she's okay with it, too. Besides, Sal comes in and calls everyone by the names we've come to know and love, so we know that the names Mama and Papa are going to stick around in the family at least a little while longer.
    • Papa has a surprise for Billy. And it's a good one. He takes Billy out to the garage where he's been working hard on dioramas all day. Well, he's decided to call them "assemblages" (2.5.17), but they're basically the same thing.
    • Billy thinks the assemblages are seriously snazzy—there's even one of Billy's face made from random odds and ends. Billy feels super cool for inspiring his dad's artwork and like a star for getting his own portrait done.
    • Plus there's more good news: Papa feels around on Billy's head and discovers that he's lump-free, the way to be. Wahoo.
    • Billy is so stoked that he actually forgets his new name plan and calls his old man Papa instead of Dad.
  • Part 3, Chapter 1


    • Since we're onto Part 3 of this book and it's titled "Sister," we've got an inkling we're going to hear a lot about Sal. And we're right. But don't go thinking that it'll be all rainbows and roses because right now Billy is seriously peeved at his little sis. Apparently she's crying like nobody's business (though maybe everybody's business is a more accurate term when it comes to sob fests).
    • The narrator backs up a bit to give us the full scoop: Sal and Billy have a babysitter named Gabby taking care of them for the night while Mama and Papa are in Chicago. The cool thing is that there's an art gallery there showing Papa's assemblages—they're even throwing him a party—but the not-so-cool thing is that Sal's been pretty upset about Mama and Papa being gone. But she, Billy, and Gabby still have big plans to trek through the snow to a restaurant called Ruby's Cupboard.
    • Honestly, Billy's night had already been a bit of a bummer before the waterworks started. You see, the sleepover he was going to have with Ned had to be cancelled because Ned's sick. To boot, he and Ned had big plans to pull their first all-nighter ever. Billy figures he can stay up all night on his own instead, and that'll still be pretty rad.
    • So after all that drama going down, Sal crying like crazy when their parents left was the last straw for Billy. And that's why he's hating on his sister so much right now. But there's happiness on the horizon, folks, because she's finally calmed down and they're off to get some grub. Nom nom nom.
  • Part 3, Chapter 2

    • It's chow time. Billy, Sal, and Gabby are inside Ruby's Cupboard and ready to eat.
    • During dessert, the gang decides that they should turn their dinner into a mini-celebration, and Billy suggests that they celebrate the Year of the Dragon. The Chinese New Year just happened, and while it was the Year of the Rabbit when Billy started school, now it's the Year of the Dragon.
    • Billy also pulls two dragon-related items out of his pocket:
    • Item One: A pearl. Ms. Silver gave everyone in class a pearl as part of their Chinese New Year celebration. Billy says that the dragon carries the pearl, which shows that the dragon has magic powers so it's extra cool.
    • Item Two: An empty envelope with a dragon stamp. Billy and his classmates get to use the envelope to send a letter to someone special.
    • Both items are neat, and Sal asks Billy if she can have the pearl. Nope, Billy's keeping that one for himself.
    • Gabby, Sal, and Billy celebrate the new year by eating ice cream sundaes and softly roaring like a dragon, which makes Gabby a pretty awesome babysitter. Then they head home.
    • Billy wants some coffee, and Gabby thinks he's just being silly… but we know that Billy has some plans in store.
  • Part 3, Chapter 3

    • Operation All-Nighter is a go. Billy is ready to stay up until the wee hours of the morning, but Gabby and Sal are already asleep. Actually, Sal's been asleep since the second they got home. Then Billy and Gabby played Crazy Eights until she was too tired to stay up any later, too, so now it's just Billy. On his own. Trying with all his might not to fall asleep.
    • It's turned out to be a lot harder than he thought, so Billy has to get creative to stay awake:
    • Creative Solution One: Walking around his room and avoiding that soft bed.
    • Creative Solution Two: Turning the lights on and off.
    • Creative Solution Three: Reading and drawing.
    • Creative Solution Four: Counting backward from one thousand.
    • Creative Solution Five: Playing with the pearl and the envelope.
    • Creative Solution Six: Making himself super duper scared.
    • Okay, this last solution actually starts to work. Maybe too well. Billy imagines that there's a monster under his bed and his ideas get seriously detailed. Add some creaky noises with the wind blowing outside to the mix, and you've got one terrified second-grader.
    • Billy gets so freaked out that he heads into his sister's room.
  • Part 3, Chapter 4

    • It's a funny thing: Being in Sal's room kind of makes everything better—all that fear Billy had just melts away when he sees his little sis.
    • So Billy wakes up Sal and tells her that if she stays up all night with him he'll give her his magic pearl. Yep, that's how badly he wants to pull an all-nighter. And he even loans the pearl to Sal until morning.
    • Since it's only 10:32PM, though, Sal and Billy have a long time to wait until they've accomplished their mission. Billy turns on the lights and puts a pillow under the door. This kid has a plan, Shmoopers, and he's sneaky, to boot.
    • Sal says the best way to stay awake is to play with the Drop Sisters. She shows Billy how to tell a story with them, but the first one he tells is a total flop. Then he gets a really cool idea, though: Our main man takes Sal's pillowcase, stuffs it, ties the end, and turns the thing into a big whale that he names Coughdrop. And how does Coughdrop talk? Well by coughing of course.
    • Sal loves Coughdrop, and she loves the stories that Billy tells about the Drop Sisters and Coughdrop even more, so they play with the animals together until Billy's voice starts to hurt.
    • When Billy goes to check on the time, he finds out some discouraging news: It's only 11:03pm. Big bummer. Things only get worse when he gets back to Sal's room and finds her asleep. On top of Coughdrop.
    • So Billy figures it's time to call it quits. He's too tired to even try anymore so he falls asleep next to his sister.
  • Part 3, Chapter 5

    • When the next morning arrives, Billy is a wee bit disappointed that he didn't pull his all-nighter. But the good news is that Mama and Papa are heading home, and the even better news is that Papa sold five of his assemblages at the show. Go, Dad.
    • When Gabby makes Sal's bed, she finds the pearl. Obviously Sal is super stoked about it and still wants to keep it. Gabby also finds Coughdrop and when she hears how he was created, she's totally impressed with Billy.
    • Billy, Sal, and Gabby decide to make brunch for when Mama and Papa come home. While Gabby is in the kitchen, Sal gives Billy back his pearl. But she's really sad about it. And she and Billy are both bummed that they didn't stay awake all night.
    • This seems like the perfect time for a super sweet bro-sis bonding moment, and Billy delivers when he decides to give Sal the pearl. Yippee. She's happy as a clam.
    • When Sal goes downstairs, Billy decides to do another super nice thing: Write a letter to his sister. And send it to her in his special dragon-stamped envelope.
  • Part 4, Chapter 1


    • It's a ridiculously hot day in May and Billy has a problem: Ms. Silver wants to put on an end-of-the-year show for all of the Room 2 students, and she wants each student to write a poem about a family member for it.
    • Billy is a bit on edge because poetry isn't exactly his favorite, but things get even tougher. Since Billy has to choose only one family member, he has no idea how to pick between Mama, Papa, and Sal. Sure, Papa makes the choice a little easier by pointing out that Sal is a bit too young to be on stage with a microphone, but that still leaves two.
    • Eventually Billy has a winner and it's… Mama. He figures she'll really like it because she's a poetry teacher and she doesn't get to spend much time at his school.
    • Billy also concocts a plan so that no one has their feelings hurt: He's going to have his parents pick a number from one to ten and then he'll pretend like his number is closest to Mama's. Sounds like a win-win.
    • So at dinner he makes his parents pick a number. When Mama picks five, Billy says five was his number, too. She's stoked, and Papa seems pretty happy, too. Crisis averted.
  • Part 4, Chapter 2

    • So now that they're prepping for the show, it's poetry all day every day for Room 2. Yep, that means Billy can't avoid writing his poem any longer.
    • The catch is that he has to decide what kind of poem to write. He wants the poem to be funny. And easy. And short. And a crowd-pleaser. Plus he really wants Ms. S to put a smiley face on his poem because that means it's ready for the show.
    • Billy's first attempt at a poem is just so-so. He goes for an acrostic (a.k.a. a poem where you write the letters to, say, MOM, vertically and then write a word or phrase that begins with each letter). It's a bit of a copout, though—Billy's acrostic reads My Only Mother—and we're thinking Ms. S isn't going to give it a smiley face (hint: we're right).
    • Never fear, Billy, because Ms. S has an idea. He should try writing a haiku (a.k.a. a three line poem where each line has a set number of syllables). Billy takes a stab at it and writes a haiku about how his mom likes volcanoes. There's just one catch: It's actually Billy who's a volcano fanatic. Oops.
    • So it's Ms. Silver to the rescue again. She says Billy should talk to his mom to find out what she likes, because that might be the perfect inspiration for a poem. Of course now Billy is also bummed because he's got homework.
  • Part 4, Chapter 3

    • Poor Billy can't sleep. Remember how he was supposed to be working on that poetry homework? Well that just didn't happen. There were more important things like water fights and going to Ruby's Cupboard for dinner and fantasizing about pulling an all-nighter this summer to think about.
    • So he gets up and finds his mom in the living room. When he shows her his two drafted poems, she's pretty impressed at his cleverness.
    • But since Ms. Silver said he should make a list of what Mama likes, Billy hops to it. She's got a pretty conventional list: coffee, chocolate, rainy days. (Us, too, Mama, us, too.)
    • Out of nowhere there's a bang on the window. When Billy and his mom investigate, they find a dead bird. The poor little fellow flew right into the window. So they bury it together, which is sad but also a kind of sweet mother/son moment. Plus Billy gets to learn another thing his mom likes: quiet. Mama says that when it's quiet you can hear oodles of stuff, which sort of makes it not quiet, but it also makes quietness extra cool. And when Billy starts listening to the quiet, he agrees.
    • And the best part is that Billy now has some inspiration for his poem. He writes one about how his mom loves the quiet and how the quiet isn't actually totally quiet. That sucker gets a nice smiley face from Ms. S, too.
  • Part 4, Chapter 4

    • Now that the show is coming up, our main man has one big task left: practice his poem. Until he's blue in the face.
    • Since Mama thinks Billy should practice for an audience, but that idea makes him super nervous, they find a solution: Poetry Man. Remember that cello that Papa stuck mannequin arms into? (If you need a refresher, swoop back to Part 2, Chapter 1 and then meet us back here.) Well they dub that dude Poetry Man and he gets to be Billy's special audience.
    • So Billy practices a ton at home, and at school, too. Plus at school he learns that he can memorize his poem if he wants to and that he'll get to practice speaking his poem into the microphone before the big day. The class paints a big sign for the show and Ms. S prints out invitations that the kids get to decorate. They sure are going all-out for this shindig.
    • Overall, things are going well. Sure, Emma is still being annoying as all get-out in class, and because she's been boasting that memorizing a poem makes it better, Billy decides he should memorize his, too. But he's going to keep that tidbit a total secret.
    • When it comes time for the dress rehearsal, Billy is a little bit freaked out by how his voice sounds different in the microphone, so he can't recite the poem from memory. But our guy is just as revved up to perform his memorized poem on the big day no matter what.
  • Part 4, Chapter 5

    • It's show time folks. Well, almost. First Billy needs to find the lucky dragon pearl in Sal's room, just in case he needs it. Oh, and Sal wants to share the "Roses are red" poem that she and Papa made up together.
    • When they're ready to hit the road, the Millers head out to meet Ned and trek to school.
    • Everyone in the auditorium gets ready for the show to start. Billy and his mom are up in the front rows with the other poets and special family members while he waits for his turn to recite his poem.
    • Of course, know-it-all Emma Sparks goes right before Billy. And since it's Emma Sparks, you just know that she's not only memorized her poem, but she's also making a big stinkin show of it—she doesn't even take a copy of her poem from Ms. Silver as a backup.
    • Okay, so since Emma decided not to take a copy of the poem and she's the whole reason Billy decided to memorize his in the first place, Billy decides he's not going to take his copy either. Yep, he walks up to the microphone with his mom and says N-O to taking that poem.
    • But when Billy gets to the mic, his whole poem just vanishes from his brain—swoosh and it's gone. Good thing his mom grabbed the backup copy. He recites that bad boy and his mom is super proud. Sure, Billy is sad that he needed the backup copy of the poem, but at least his mom thought to grab it.
    • Afterward, Billy gets to enjoy cookies with his pals. And listen to Emma brag about being the only person to recite her poem by heart. Plus, Ms. S has some nice things to say about how great Room 2 was this year.
    • But before the night is over, Billy has one more thing he wants to do, so he goes back on stage and makes sure that the microphone is turned off. Then he recites his poem like a boss, even though no one can hear him.
    • It's a pretty big accomplishment, and it's even cooler because Mama has been watching Billy the whole time. Needless to say, she's proud as can be.