Author: Kate Klise
Age Range: 9-12 (Kirkus Reviews)
Interest Range: 9-12
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Plot: The year is 1983. Dennis Acres is a tiny town in Missouri, and Benny Summer is a 12-year-old boy who spends most of his evenings listening to his parents fight. That is, until his mom walks out and moves back to New Orleans. Benny just can’t shake the deep, sad feeling that he can only name as “homesickness” as his father starts to make their home disappear. Benny’s dad owned an antique shop, until he started refusing to sell his antiques to anyone, claiming they were all “too valuable”. And now, all of the antiques reside in their house, with them, and with any junk that his father can find. A tower of pizza boxes continues to grow in the kitchen and when Benny tries to throw them away, his father freaks out and claims that they will someday be valuable too. Will Benny ever be able to get his dad to clean up? And will his mother ever come back so that Benny can find his home again?
Review: This book has a lot going on. In addition to being a hoarder, Benny’s father also continually talks about how one day the entire world will be connected by a huge computer network. His predictions of what we know today as the Internet do sound strange in the mouth of someone from the early 1980s, and some of the things he believes will be possible really are quite crazy, but the reader gets to see how sometimes people with truly amazing ideas can be viewed as “crazy” by their closest friends and family. The reader also is seeing how mental illness was viewed in a time when many people still feared it and did not acknowledge it. In the end, Calvin is admitted to a hospital for other reasons and they determine what is really wrong with him. He is helped to realize his problem, given medication, and is put on track to live a normal life. While all of this is happening, Benny is also involved in the starting of the town radio station and experiences lots of regular 12-year-old boy feelings about school, and the girl who sits behind him in class, and the fact that his parents don’t get along.
Themes: Changes at Home, Economic Hardship, Mental Illness, Divorce
Benny Summer: 12-year-old Benny is left alone to take care of his father for months while trying to navigate the sixth grade. He has a job at the local radio station, run by his father’s best friend, Myron, and avoids going to all of his piano lessons. He also has a crush on Stormy Walker.
Calvin Summer: Benny’s father, who suffers from a serotonin deficiency and hoards just about anything he can get his hands on. His “collecting” turns their home into an unlivable wreck, full of rats and mold, and his illness keeps him from seeing the danger and embarrassment that he is putting his son through.
Nola Rene Summer: Benny’s mother, who leaves when she becomes so frustrated at her husband’s inability to throw anything away that she just cannot take it anymore. She calls home infrequently to check on Benny and promises to come back for him at the end of the school year and bring him back to New Orleans with her. She either does not realize that her husband is sick, or does not care to.
Myron Kazie: Calvin’s best friend from when they were in high school and the owner of the local radio station. Myron acts as a kind of stand-in father for Benny, offering him a paying job at the radio station and constantly checking on him to make sure he’s ok. At a few points, Myron does attempt to intervene with Calvin, but Calvin’s intense level of self-defense keeps him at bay.
Mrs. Rosso: Benny’s sixth-grade teacher, who becomes another caretaker for Benny. She realizes what is going on at home and attempts to encourage Benny’s desire to clean up the house by allowing it to be his service project for school. When Calvin calls her at home in a fit of rage, she takes a more serious, yet hidden, role in helping Benny out- secretly teaching him to do laundry, and bringing him new clothes and personal items when he needs them.
Stormy Walker: The pretty girl who sits behind Benny in Mrs. Rosso’s class. Benny and Stormy eventually become friends when disaster strikes the entire town.
Klise, K. (2012). Homesick. New York: Macmillan.
His parents are splitting up, and even though he hasn’t left home Benny still can’t shake a feeling of homesickness when his mother leaves for good.