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
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 imaginablefrom 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
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
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)
Read an Excerpt
THE LAST SPLINTER
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.
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?
MOM: You'll really start cleaning tomorrow?
MOM: You'll throw away some of your stuff?
MOM: Prove it.
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.]
[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