Happy MMGM! Spotlight on The Year of Billy Miller

I honestly wasn’t sure how much I’d like this book when I first started it.  Part of that was because I grabbed it on a whim and didn’t read the back cover blurb carefully enough, so when it mentioned Billy standing at the giant’s feet…I thought there’d be giants.  And that sounded cool.

Note: there are no giants in The Year of Billy Miller.

The Year of Billy Miller cover

Additionally, when I read the first pages…it seemed sweet, but a little (dare I say it?) boring.  In fact, I wasn’t quite sure why I kept reading.  And then when I came back to it the next day, I wasn’t sure what it was that made me pick it up, given all the other books clamoring for my attention and the new books I was given for my Bday that are waiting patiently for me to read them.  This happened again the next day, but by now, clever person that I am, I’d noticed the pattern and read with an eye open to spot the power of this spell the book had cast on me.  Why did it keep pulling me back?  What was the draw, exactly?

Well, I never precisely pinned it down.  Part of its charm is the authenticity of the voice.  I could readily believe that this book really was written by an incredibly articulate second grade boy.  And since everyone knows that the inside of a little boys head is akin to an alien landscape, the journey had its own charm.  Additionally, I think there’s a similar draw as people find in what is often termed ‘pastoral fiction,’ otherwise known as fiction set in a simpler time, when we can enjoy watching people live out their lives with love and joy against a simpler backdrop then is normally found in modern life.  The sweet, every day concerns of Billy were no less valid because they didn’t involve the giant I was expecting to find, and perhaps seen more clearly without the noise of larger-than-life adult themes and concerns.

Whatever the innner-workings of the spell, it pulled me through to the end, and I found myself smiling fondly on the book’s close.  Will it keep all reader’s attention?  No, probably not.  Would I recommend it to every kid this age?  That depends, but I might.  I suspect that they’d find themselves falling for the same charm I did, and find in Billy the beginnings of a lifelong friend.

I’m very curious what Apricot-kitty has to say!

Apricot Headshot squinting“I liked the Drop sisters.  Clever, practical, and adaptable, those sisters might by plush whales, but they’ve got the instincts of a cat.  I also liked the dioramas.  You should make a really big one for me!”




A life-size cat diorama–that would be cool!  Although, really, isn’t that how cats view their human’s houses?  We’re here to serve and provide every cattish comfort, right? lol

Stop by Shannon’s blog for lots of other Marvelous Middle Grade Monday books, and thanks for stopping by!


13 comments to Happy MMGM! Spotlight on The Year of Billy Miller

  • It won a Newbery Honor this year, right? I haven’t read it yet, but I do like Kevin’s style so I’ll look into this one.

  • Quiet books have their own appeal. I suspect this is one I would like, but my sons wouldn’t. Especially because there are no giants. 🙂 You are too funny, Suzanne!

  • Barbara yes, I believe it did! Probably the non-giant reason I reached for it. 😉 Let me know what you think after you read!

    Joanne depending on their ages, it might surprise them. It did me. And always happy to amuse. 😉

  • Glad you kept reading it. Sometimes I can’t get into a book because I’m too tired or it doesn’t move fast enough for my stress level. But then I pick it up again and really find I like it.

  • That’s an interesting point, Natalie–that a book being too slow can actually be stressful. I hadn’t thought of it like that, by you’re right! I guess we each have an internal sense for what the pace of a book should be, and if it’s too fast or too slow it takes more energy to adjust our internal pace and match it. What a fascinating thought. Thanks for commenting and sharing!

  • I’m reading a book now that doesn’t start with a bang, but it, too, is pulling me in. Seems to break the normal advice for writing first pages. I had seen this cover before, but knew nothing about what was inside. Thanks for featuring. I’ve got this one on my TBR list.

  • I’m guessing you can get away with a gentler start when you’ve won a couple Caldecott’s and taken home a previous Newbery honor, like Kevin has. 😉 Let me know when/if you feature your slow starter so I can check it out, and thanks for dropping by and commenting!

  • I wasn’t familiar with this book, but I think I’d like it. I love quiet books and don’t see enough of them. Thanks for the review.

  • I’m sure you’ll love it, and I’m happy I could assist in making that connection! 😀

  • Thanks for featuring this! I saw it recently in the library and thought about picking it up. I really loved Olive’s Ocean, which was also quiet, but very moving.
    He is such a talented writer.
    I will definitely be checking this out now!

  • That he certainly is! Almost uncanny, really. 😀 When you get a chance to read it, let me know what you think and I’ll do the same if I get my hands on Olive’s Ocean!

  • Deb

    You really summed up how this book worked. I felt much the same…there was a something about it and the way it unfolded and pulled you into Billy’s day to day life that made it, in the end, compelling. Have not read Olive’s Ocean. Oh! What what that? The TBR tipping over! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on Billy!

  • Haha yeah, that To Be Read pile is a dangerous thing! Quite the occupational hazard for we devoted readers. 😉
    Enjoy, and thanks for stopping by and commenting!

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