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The Year of Billy Miller

Last updated Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Author: Kevin Henkes
Date of Publication: 2013
ISBN: 0062268120
Grade Level: 5th    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Sep. 2014

Synopsis: When Billy Miller has a mishap at the statue of the Jolly Green Giant at the end of summer vacation, he ends up with a big bump on his head. What a way to start a new school year! As the year goes by, though, Billy figures out how to navigate elementary school, how to appreciate his little sister, and how to be a more grown up and responsible member of the family and a help to his busy working mom and stay-at-home dad.

Note to readers:
•  This story is about a boy starting 2nd grade, so you might want to skip Part 1 or tell them you are going to "modify the story for 5th grade" and replace references to 2nd grade with 5th.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  Why do you think it is Billy Miller's year? Why is it a special year for Billy?
•  What are you looking forward to this year?

•  blustery (p. 2) - a violent noise or commotion
•  hoisted (p. 6) - to raise or become raised into position especially by mechanical means
•  embedded (p. 16) - to enclose in or as if in a surrounding mass
•  kitty-corner (p. 21) - in a crosswise position : on a diagonal line
•  resonant (p. 22) - continuing to sound
•  dilapidated (p. 31) - partly ruined or decayed especially from age or lack of care
•  gnarled (p. 32) - a large or hard knot in wood or on a tree
•  inclined (p. 46) - having the head or body bent forward
•  exaggerated (p. 57) - to enlarge a fact or statement beyond what is actual or true
•  acquisitions (p. 58) - things acquiring by buying
•  dioramas (p. 61) - a scenic representation in which lifelike sculptured figures and surrounding details are realistically set against a background
•  diligently (p. 64) - showing steady and earnest care and effort
•  scrutinize (p. 70) - to examine very closely
•  oblivious (p. 99) - not being conscious or aware
•  assemblages (p. 101) - a collection or gathering of persons or things; an artistic composition made by putting together scraps or junk
•  companionable (p. 104) - having, showing, or leading to feelings of companionship or friendship

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  What happened to Billy in Minnesota?
•  What was Billy worried about on his first day of school?
•  What year is it on the Chinese calendar?
•  Who are the "Drop Sisters"? Who is Billy's best friend?
•  What did Ned call Billy's father?
•  What does Billy think the teacher is thinking about him? What plan does Billy come up with to make things right with Ms. Silver?
•  What did Billy ask Ms. Silver, and what was her reply? How does Billy feel about this?
•  What is different about Billy's father?
•  What was Billy's diorama of? What are his father's dioramas?
•  What idea does Billy give his father?
•  What new names does Billy want to use for his father and mother?

Craft ideas:
•  Make a diorama (like a cave with hanging bats or beach scene w/ wrinkled blue tissue paper for water & sharks like in the book). Use cut out shapes of paper. Leave an extra tab of paper at the bottom of each shape to fold & attach to a thick card-stock paper. Or use unbent paper clips to hold the cutouts up & tape part of the clip to the bottom to the paper. (see sample)
•  Make a "Things to Know About Me" list like the inside cover of the book.

Special activities:
•  Ask each kid what year they were born, then look up what Chinese year that is. Have kids draw a picture of their animal & write a few characteristics underneath. 2000 = dragon, 2001 = snake, 2002 = horse, 2003 = sheep/goat, 2004 = monkey, 2005 = rooster, 2006 = dog

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don’t have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!