Synopses & Reviews
Bennys 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. Bennys 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 Americas Most Charming Small Town contest, and the pressure is on to clean up the area, especially Bennys ramshackle of a house, before the out-of-town guests arrive.
"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.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Kate Klise is the author of Grounded, winner of the 2011 Judy Lopez Award (Womens National Book Association) for Best Childrens 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.
Reading Group Guide
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION:
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 youve 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 Bennys 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. Bennys 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 Bennys shoes? Do you think his dad is lazy and just doesnt 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 Bennys family. Do you believe Myron and Mrs. Crumple did the right thing in organizing a community cleanup of Bennys house? Why or why not?
8. Do you agree with Bennys father that cleaning a house is not an appropriate service project for Mrs. Rossos class? Why or why not?
9. When a crisis hits, Benny must make a snap decision about riding his fathers 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 Bennys 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.)