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Book Review: The Year of Billy Miller, by Kevin Henkes


Book Review: The Year of Billy Miller, by Kevin HenkesAnother year has gone by …and it’s time to welcome 2015. Standing at the threshold of a new year always fills one with expectations and hope! Another year full of events and non-events, another year full of personal and professional highs and lows, another year full of cherished memories to come! Whether you expect 2015 to be a life-changing year or just another year to add to your profile, as parents at least, you cannot deny that each passing year is only a reminder of how time flies and how fast your little ones become not-so-little ones anymore! Here’s wishing everyone a great and fulfilling year ahead!

For the start of the new year, we picked up ‘The Year of Billy Miller’ by Kevin Henkes, the author of famous picture books like ‘Kitten First Full Moon’, ‘Good Day’ and the ‘Lilly’ series. ‘The Year of Billy Miller’, for which he received the Newberry medal, is a chapter book meant for young readers between the ages of seven and twelve.

What does a seven year old’s world revolve around? – parents whose mood swings he cannot figure out, a sibling whose wailing he cannot take anymore, and school where he hates having to deal with his “show-off” classmate or his teacher in whose bad books he suddenly lands……sounds like a familiar story? Well, seven year old Billy Miller is starting second grade and that’s exactly what he is going through, or rather worried about!

‘The Year of Billy Miller’ is divided into five parts spanning one whole academic year that typically begins at fall and ends the following summer. Each part comprises over five small chapters, describing his experiences with his new class teacher Ms. Silver whom he worries about having accidentally offended when poking fun at a fellow classmate;  his dad whom he fondly calls as ‘papa’ but later worries that it is childish; his three year old sister Sal,  whom he claims to hate and cannot live with, only to realize that he cannot live without her either; and finally his mother whom he compares to a volcano in a poem he writes for his year-end class project!

Each part is beautifully written with crisp and tongue-in-cheek humour that is both funny and thought-provoking. The language is simple enough for emergent chapter book readers and yet provides plenty of scope for vocabulary improvement, though certain references to the American lifestyle may be a little confusing for someone who is not exposed to living abroad. Though the illustrations are at a bare minimum, ‘The Year of Billy Miller’ can certainly double up as a read-aloud series for children too young to read independently, but patient enough for complex themes.

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Divya Purandar is a practising advocate, wife to an IT professional and mom to an eight year old brat. She began blogging at http://divya-onestoryaday.blogspot.in/ .while living in the US as she was fascinated by the world of children’s books. The blog gave her a platform to share her reading adventures while offering a brief review of the book in question. She has also reviewed children’s books for other parenting blogs and forums. What started out as a penning down of reading experiences with her little one has turned into a journey of self discovery and a sounding board for Divya’s parental musings.


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