Billy Miller is about to start second grade with his best friend Ned. He is a little nervous, because during the summer he had a bad fall, which led to a knot on his head. He worries he could have problems with his brain, but his father assures him that this will be the Year of Billy Miller. Billy's teacher uses the Chinese New Year, The Year of the Rabbit, followed by the Year of the Dragon, to bring a little outside culture to her group. As Billy embraces his year, he faces a bully, grows up a little, helps his parents, and is a good older brother to his little sister. Billy learns that we have to embrace our fears and focus on the good in life to have a spectacular year.
This was a really sweet book written from a second graders perspective. It lacks the usual hard luck and heartbreaking themes the Newbery crew usually embraces, but that makes it a book I would actually recommend to lower elementary. Children will be able to relate to Billy and parents don't have to worry about a sad ending. I do love a lot of the heartbreaking Newbery's, but it is refreshing to have one that is just a sweet story. Kevin Henkes is a talented writer and illustrator and this will be perfect for his fans who have grown a little past books like Chrysanthemum. I will definitely be recommending this one to parents. 4 cups of cocoa!