( 4 )


Benny's parents are splitting up. His mom leaves home after a fight about a mysterious splinter that is rumored to be part of an important relic. Benny's dad has always liked clutter, but now, he begins hoarding everything from pizza boxes to old motorcycle parts.

As his house grows more cluttered and his father grows more distant, Benny tries to sort out whether he can change anything at all. Meanwhile, a local teacher enters their quiet Missouri town in America's Most Charming...

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Benny's parents are splitting up. His mom leaves home after a fight about a mysterious splinter that is rumored to be part of an important relic. Benny's dad has always liked clutter, but now, he begins hoarding everything from pizza boxes to old motorcycle parts.

As his house grows more cluttered and his father grows more distant, Benny tries to sort out whether he can change anything at all. Meanwhile, a local teacher enters their quiet Missouri town in America's Most Charming Small Town contest, and the pressure is on to clean up the area, especially Benny's ramshackle of a house, before the out-of-town guests arrive.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Klise (Grounded) looks at the effects of hoarding and the struggles and joys of smalltown life in this honest, good-natured coming-of-age story set in the early 1980s. Twelve-year-old Benny’s mother leaves his father, whose hoarding has gotten out of control, heading for New Orleans with a promise to come back for Benny. With Benny’s father increasingly unable to care for himself or his son (he won’t let Benny throw away pizza boxes, convinced they will be valuable in the future), the boy spends his time with his loving and quirky neighbors, in particular his father’s best friend, Myron. Benny begins work at Myron’s fledgling radio station, transcribing amusing interviews with locals, including schoolteacher Miss Turnipson, who has entered their Missouri town in a contest to find “the most charming small town in America.” As Benny’s father deteriorates, the neighbors band together. While some things remain open-ended, matters still resolve in a surprising, slightly too-good-to-be-true, yet satisfying way. Klise conjures ample empathy for the residents of Dennis Acres—even Benny’s father who, despite his problems, has a gift for foresight (sometimes). Ages 10–14. (Sept.)
VOYA - Laura Lehner
Benny Summer's mom leaves when she just cannot take his father's hoarding anymore. He is obsessed with collecting everything imaginable—from empty pizza boxes to computer parts to a splinter that he claims came from the Holy Cross. He believes there are thieves who want to take his things, and never leaves the house for fear of something being stolen. When Benny tries to make it a school service project to clean up his own house, his teacher thinks it is a great idea, but his dad does not. As it turns out, that particular service project was never meant to happen, as a twist of fate ultimately does Benny's job for him. In spite of the very serious themes of hoarding, mental illness, and divorce, Benny's story is humorous and engaging, full of characters who make the reader want to root for this small town in Missouri. Benny is a lovable protagonist, and the town of Dennis Acres itself plays a big role in the plot, lending a real sense of community. The ending wraps up a little too neatly but this is a good choice for tweens looking for entertainment with some depth. Reviewer: Laura Lehner
Kirkus Reviews
Beignet "Benny" Summer knows something's wrong with his father. Dad used to have a "collectibles" store, but since he wouldn't sell his "inventory," he got kicked out for not paying rent. In 1983 Dennis Acres, Mo., a town of 52 (now that Benny's mom's gone home to New Orleans), everyone knows everyone else's business (and most are annoyed by what they know). Benny gets a job at the local radio station to scrape together money to pay the phone bill so he can stay in touch with his mother. She's planning to get settled and return for him at the end of the school year, but Benny's dad is spiraling downward fast. When the town wins a "Most Charming Small Town" contest thanks to Miss Turnipson's (more than) slight embellishment on the application, everyone knows the Summers' house needs help. However, catastrophic changes are in store for everyone, especially Benny. Klise's tale of a small town full of nuts has its touching moments and a strongly voiced narrator, but there's no clear trajectory. Dad's odd prescience--foreseeing the Internet, eBay and smartphones--feels out of character, and the sweet and tightly tied-up finale reads as a bit of a cheat. Readers will respond to Benny's pluck, though, as well as his longing for a home free of junk. A gentle entry in the kid-in-a-quirky-small-town genre. (Historical fiction. 9-12)
From the Publisher

Praise for Homesick:

“Klise looks at the effects of hoarding and the struggles and joys of smalltown life in this honest, good-natured coming-of-age story set in the early 1980s.” —Publishers Weekly

“It’s Benny’s quandary that really makes the book come alive.” —BCCB

“This is a valid addition due to the author’s popularity and to add collection depth on mental illness.” —School Library Journal

School Library Journal
Gr 5–7—Imagine being caught in an impossible home life, powerless and alone with a parent who is descending further every day into mental illness. Klise explores this situation through 12-year-old Benny. It's 1983, and his father's hoarding and paranoia are worsening to the point of making life unbearable. Benny's mom can't take it and goes back to her native New Orleans. It's not until a tornado flattens their tiny Missouri town that his dad gets the help he needs. Particular care is given in depicting a smart and talented father figure, clearly showing that mental illness is totally unrelated to a lack of intelligence. A likable main character, colorful secondary figures, touches of humor, and a well-defined rural setting make this an engaging read. Tech-savvy readers will especially appreciate the predictions of the amazing capabilities of computers in the future, along with the dismissive response to those ideas by the general population. The book's many strengths, however, are marred by highly unlikely plot twists, including a national contest with massive prizes that requires no verification, and by the extremely convenient timing of the catastrophic tornado. Where budgets allow, this is still a valid addition due to the author's popularity and to add collection depth on mental illness.Faith Brautigam, Gail Borden Public Library District, Elgin, IL
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781250008428
  • Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
  • Publication date: 9/18/2012
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 677,051
  • Age range: 10 - 14 Years
  • Lexile: 610L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Kate Klise is the author of Grounded, winner of the 2011 Judy Lopez Award (Women's National Book Association) for Best Children's Novel of the year. Her other books include the 43 Old Cemetery Road series of epistolary novels, illustrated by her sister, M. Sarah Klise. In addition to writing for children, Kate spent fifteen years working as a journalist for several publications, including People magazine. She now leads writing workshops all over the country for aspiring authors of all ages.
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Read an Excerpt

MY PARENTS SPLIT UP over a splinter. You’ve heard the expression “the last straw”? I guess this was the last splinter. The conversation went something like this:
Mom and Dad's fight: 1/20/1983
MOM (yelling): What in God's name are you doing?
DAD: Shh. You'll wake up Benny.
MOM: No, I won't. He's sound asleep.
[ME: Wrong. I was wide awake and listening from my room like I always did when my mom and dad fought. It was the soundtrack of my childhood.]
DAD: Let me just unload the truck.
MOM: I told you to clean up your crap, and now you're bringing home more crap?
DAD: I had to move my inventory. It wasn't safe in the store.
[ME: I should explain. Dad had a store on Highway 44 called Calvin's Collectibles. Dad said he collected treasures. Mom called it junk.]
MOM: So you're bringing all your junk here?
DAD: I have to protect my inventory.
MOM: Nobody wants your crap, Calvin.
DAD: My collectibles are valuable, Nola.
MOM: Oh, really? Tell me one thing you've ever owned that's valuable.
DAD: I'll tell you three things. My collection of vintage board games. My Tandy computer. And my splinter from the Holy Cross.
[ME: Ah, the mysterious splinter from the Holy Cross. I'd heard about it forever, but never seen it. Whenever I asked to see it, Dad said it wasn't a toy.]
MOM: For the love of God, don't tell me you still have the splinter of wood your grandmother gave you when you were six years old.
DAD: Think how much it's worth now.
MOM: It's worth nothing. Squat. Zero! It's a splinter, probably from your crazy granny's rocking chair.
DAD: Grammy—not granny—Grammy Summer told me it came from the Holy Crucifix.
MOM (yelling again): And you believed her? Are you nuts, Calvin? Are you absolutely nuts? Because you'd have to be nuts to think you own a splinter from the crucifix of Jesus Christ. You're doing this to drive me crazy.
DAD: What?
MOM: That! Right there! That look on your face. You're smirking.
DAD: I'm not smirking.
MOM: You're smirking!
[ME: He was probably smirking. Dad smirked a lot.]
DAD: I'm thinking.
[ME: I guess he could've been thinking and smirking.]
MOM: Uh-huh. I'm thinking, too. I'm thinking when are you going to stop collecting and start selling?
DAD: When the time's right, I'll sell things through my computer.
MOM: What? How?
DAD: I've told you, Nola. It's coming. A giant computer network that'll link everyone in the whole wide world. Once we're all connected by computers, I'll be able to sell my collection, piece by piece, right here from the living room. I'll make money twenty-four hours a day.
MOM: Then sell something already, will you? Start with a board game. Fire up your computer and see if anyone's buying Candy Land tonight.
DAD: The superstructure's not ready yet. We have to wait.
MOM: Like I haven't been waiting since nineteen-stinkin'-seventy for you to get a real job? Do you know how many motel rooms I've cleaned since then?
DAD: Wait and watch.
MOM: Wait and watch, wait and watch, wait and watch. No, Calvin. Stop waiting and watch this. Where are the trash bags? If you're bringing more junk into this house, then I'm throwing some of your junk out.
DAD: Don't you dare.
MOM: I have to! I can't even walk through this house anymore without tripping over your piles of quote-unquote collectibles.
[ME: This was true. Our house was jam-packed with Dad's stuff, except for my bedroom. I kept my door closed.]
DAD: I'll start cleaning tomorrow. Let me just unload the truck now. It's late.
MOM: Are you serious?
DAD: What?
MOM: You'll really start cleaning tomorrow?
DAD: Yes.
MOM: You'll throw away some of your stuff?
DAD: Sure.
MOM: Prove it.
DAD: How?
MOM: Let me throw away one thing now. It can be something small. Tiny, even. How about that stupid splinter? I'm going to throw it away.
DAD: No. Don't. You can't.
MOM: Then you throw it away. Go find it. I want to see it again.
[ME: It's not a toy, Mom.]
DAD: It's not a toy, Nola.
MOM: I know. It's a sliver of wood. You showed it to me the night we met.
DAD: Mardi Gras. New Orleans. February 10, 1970.
MOM: You and your crazy splinter. It's worthless, Calvin. Throw it away.
DAD: When pigs fly.
MOM: What's that supposed to mean?
[ME: I was wondering the same thing.]
DAD: It means I'll throw away a priceless splinter from the Holy Cross on the day pigs fly.
MOM: Which means never.
DAD: I didn't say that.
MOM: You didn't have to. It's written all over your face. You're never going to get rid of anything, are you?
DAD: Never's a long time.
MOM: I'll give you one more chance. Go get your stupid splinter and throw it away.
[ME: Silence. Just the sound of Mom's furious voice hanging in the air.]
MOM: Well?
[ME: Nothing. No response from Dad. This was serious.]
MOM: Calvin, I'm asking you to choose between me and a worthless splinter.
[ME: By this point I was standing next to my door, waiting for Dad's answer.]
MOM: Fine. You've made your choice. And wow, look at that. You've managed to throw something away. Our marriage.
DAD: What about Benny?
[ME: Yeah, what about me? Don't throw me away.]
MOM: I'll come back for him when I get settled.
[ME: I could hear things rustling in the living room. Keys jingling.]
DAD: What should I tell him when he wakes up in the morning?
MOM: Tell Benny I love him and I'll be back for him soon. Oh, and tell him I signed him up for piano lessons. The first lesson is tomorrow after school. Four o'clock. Mrs. Crumple's house.

Copyright © 2012 by Kate Klise

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Reading Group Guide


1. The first chapter of the book is written in the form of a transcript. Why do you think the author chose this format? What does it bring to the first chapter that a traditional narrative does not? Do you like it? Why or why not? Compare the transcript in the first chapter with the transcript in the final chapter. How has Benny changed? (Additional assignment: Create the opening of a story in transcript form.)

2. Benny says that his parents "split up over a splinter." What does he mean by this? Can you think of any experiences you've had that began with a small incident and then became much bigger? (For example, a scraped knee that became infected, a tiny leak in the ceiling that spread and did lots of damage, etc.)

3. Homesick takes place before the Internet and cell phones existed. Do you think Benny's story might be different if he had access to both of those things?

4. Benny is embarrassed by his first name, which is Beignet. Why? Have you ever been embarrassed by your first name, middle name, or last name? Have you ever had a nickname you disliked?

5. Benny's father might be described as a "hoarder," or someone who holds on to more stuff than he has room for, or needs. He gets mad when Benny suggests throwing out some of the pizza boxes, for example. How would you handle this situation if you were in Benny's shoes? Do you think his dad is lazy and just doesn't want to clean up? Is there anything in your life you refuse to throw away, even though it has little or no real value?

6. Make a list of health hazards associated with clutter: e.g., mold, insects and rodents, dust, damage to floors, walls, furniture, etc.

7. Myron is a neighbor and friend of Benny's family. Do you believe Myron and Mrs. Crumple did the right thing in organizing a community cleanup of Benny's house? Why or why not?

8. Do you agree with Benny's father that cleaning a house is not an appropriate service project for Mrs. Rosso's class? Why or why not?

9. When a crisis hits, Benny must make a snap decision about riding his father's motorcycle to look for his friend Stormy, and then take her and her mother to a hospital. Benny is only 12 years old, too young to legally ride a motorcycle. Do you think Benny made the right choice? Why or why not?

10. Tornadoes can do tremendous damage to people and property. Research tornadoes and other natural disasters in the U.S. and incorporate first-person stories of the experiences, either from people who are quoted in articles, or from family members who have witnessed a tornado or other natural disaster firsthand.

11. Do you think Benny has a lot of friends? Does he have a best friend? How is his circle of friends different than yours?

12. What do you think Benny's life is like after the last chapter of the book? Write a transcript of your imagined interview with Benny. (He can be any age you choose.)

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 2.5
( 4 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 9, 2012


    You can not judge a book if u havent even read it!

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2013


    This book looks like it was really poorly written seriolsy. Wow!

    1 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2013

    Dont judge it

    It is a good book !!! :) have an open heart

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 23, 2012

    Never read this book

    This book looks horrible

    1 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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