Monday, November 4, 2013
The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes
But wait, hadn't his dad told Billy on the way to school that this was "the year of Billy Miller?" And so it is. From his first humiliating moments on the first day of school, through to the end of the year, we journey with Billy as he grows in confidence, as he learns new and interesting things, and culminates is an wonderful poem to his mother, presented in the auditorium.
The Year of Billy Miller is a very gentle, funny, sad, and entertaining book about one kid trying to navigate himself successfully through school and life. It is written with the characteristic Kevin Henkes simplicity but not in the least bit condescending and includes lots small,whimsical, marginalia-type drawings throughout.
But the question of who this book is for has come up again and again. It looks and feels like a middle grade novel, but the character and story are too young to appeal to that age group. It is definitely not a chapter book for beginning readers, which is what usually happens around 2nd Grade. And although it reminds me and others of the Ramona books, it is really still too young for those 7-11 year old readers. It also reminded me of Tomie dePaulo's 26 Fairmount Avenue series, but those are indeed chapter books for 7-10 year olds.
The way I see it is that The Year of Billy Miller is an episodic novel and for that reason, I think it is an ideal read-aloud book for 6 and 7 year olds, especially at bedtime, where a chapter a night can be manageably read, by or with an adult or older sibling. And it is a perfect as a classroom read aloud, offering so many teachable moments, classroom activity possibilities and new vocabulary words to learn. And what a wonderful book for a 1st Grade teacher to read at the end of the school year, helping to prepare his/her students as they are promoted into 2nd Grade.
I really enjoyed reading this compassionate story and I hope we get to meet Billy again, as he traverses 3rd, 4th and even 5th grade, growing and accomplishing each year, facing problems and anxieties that all kids have to deal with at that age.
This book is recommended for readers age 6+
This book was borrowed from the NYPL