The Year of Billy Miller


The Year of Billy Miller
Written by Kevin Henkes

Publisher’s Summary:
Seven-year-old Billy Miller starts second grade with a bump on his head and a lot of worries, but by the end of the year he has developed good relationships with his teacher, his little sister, and his parents and learned many important lessons.

Primary Source Pairing:

“Ms. Silver and the great nation of China might think this is the Year of the Rabbit,” said Papa. “But I know — and I know everything — that this is the Year of Billy Miller.”
Billy smiled. He couldn’t not. He repeated Papa’s words in his head. This is the Year of Billy Miller. (pg 10)

Billy’s teacher, Ms. Silver, writes in her back to school letter about the exciting year ahead in second grade. She concludes the letter by adding that according to the Chinese Zodiac Calendar, it is also the Year of the Rabbit. For this primary source pairing, invite students to study the Chinese Zodiac Calendar and do a close view of the dates and corresponding animals. Read the Chinese Zodiac Story of the animals and the grand race in the Jade Emperor’s kingdom on this website.

Questions for Discussion:

  • Describe what you see.
  • What do you notice first?
  • Notice the animals and dates.
  • How are they connected?
  • What is the progression of dates?
  • Find the year you were born.
  • What animal are you?
  • Find the year a parent or family member was born.
  • What animal is he or she?
  • What questions do you have when looking at this image?

Book Cover and Summary: Follett
Chinese Zodiac Calendar and Story of the Animals: