October 20, 2012

31 Days of Awesome Kids' Books: Homesick

Benny has several problems. First of all: his name is really Beignet. His parents named him after the popular doughnuts from New Orleans. Second, his dad is a crazy, obsessed packrat (in today's terms: a hoarder). Third, as a result, his mom just left his dad.

She told Benny she's going back to New Orleans to get a job, and she'll come get him in a few months. In the meantime, Benny's stuck in Dennis Acres, Missouri (population 54 people) with his crazy father, Calvin, and a growing mountain of trash. Calvin's "treasures" range from a splinter from Jesus's cross to old motorcycle parts to a mildewing pile of empty pizza boxes.

Though published in 2012, Homesick is set in 1983, and Calvin is convinced that someday soon a world wide computer network is going to be created and he'll be able to sell all his items to people all over the world. So in the short term he refuses to sell anything, because the local people can't pay him what his things are truly worth.  

In addition to risking being buried by his dad's mountains of trash, Benny has a crush on a girl named Stormy at school, but he's shy about telling her. And, he's been supposedly taking piano lessons from Mrs. Crumple for months, but instead he's been sneaking away to help his friend Myron start a radio station. Worst of all: the kindergarten teacher has entered Dennis Acres in a contest to be America's Most Charming Small Town, and now the whole town is mad at Calvin because their trash heap of a house might ruin everything.

I really liked this book. It's fun as the modern-day reader to chuckle at the people who think Calvin is insane for imagining a worldwide computer network. All the characters are very real, and I just wanted to smack Calvin in the back of the head for neglecting Benny and ruining his marriage. The small town setting was vivid, and the denouement (while rather unbelievable) was a lot of fun, and made for a relatively perfect happy ending. I think if it was an adult book the tidy ending might've annoyed me, but I kind of like my kids' books to have happy endings - especially since Benny had to put up with so much during the story. 

Do you know anyone with an embarrassing name?

Rating: 4 out of 5
Recommended age: 8 and up

This post is Day 20 of my 31 Days of Awesome Kids' Books.  

Don't forget that the giveaway from Day 14 is still open!
This post contains Amazon affiliate links.