As I return to my victory lap worth of extra book reviews, I’m going to work in a few reviews of selections from the Children Literature Network’s suggestions of potential Newberry Award Honorees. (You can read the full review and see my ballot at my other website: The Scruffy Rube)
The Year of Billy Miller
It’s never a good sign when you pick up a book for an awards discussion and think: “I bet one of my students could do this.”
Such is the problem with The Year of Billy Miller. A story and collection of characters so slight they might just blow away in the breeze. It’s a little refreshing not to have a weighty drama burdening every page with glorious purpose, but it’s also a little like eating a meal worth of cotton candy–airy, transparent and ultimately unsatisfying.
Billy Miller is an average kid, with an average family, going into an average school with an average set of problems. The result is…average, neither remarkable nor horrible, but certainly not very noteworthy. I can easily imagine my students sitting down to write a paper and settling for this simply because it flowed out of them. I doubt I’d be as disappointed if I hadn’t been asked to think of it in relationship to an award, but since I was, it was all the more disappointing.