Jean Fritz grew up in China, the daughter of a couple who worked for the YMCA. She grew up during the time of conflict between the Nationalist Army and the Communists, right before World War II.
Homesick is the story of her last year or so in China, as a 10-year-old girl. She hates her British school, because she’s American and American’s quit saying, “God Save the King” way back in the 1700’s. She feels very homesick for Pennsylvania, where her parents grew up and her grandmother now lives. She’s never met her grandmother, but corresponds with her frequently throughout the book until she finally meets her after a long journey from China to Pennsylvania.
I love the way Jean describes the conflict between how she feels at home in China, yet wants to be in America. Then, when she arrives in America, she’s infuriated at the way her classmates talk about “Chinks” or “Chinamen” – “They are Chinese!” she yells, as she stands up, confronts the boy who sits behind her, interrupting her whole class. The readers begin to sense the innate conflict of anyone who has lived overseas – she doesn’t belong in China because she’s American. Yet she doesn’t really belong in America because she grew up in China.
This book is a great introduction to China from the eyes of a not-quite-understanding 10-year-old girl. Jean also longs for siblings, and is delighted when her mother gives birth to a little girl. She just knew her little sister would understand how hard it was to be good. But her little sister dies just a few days later, and she’s devastated.
Homesick deals with some hard, difficult, yet real-life topics for a 10-year-old girl in a very realistic, yet gentle way. I highly recommend it for ages 9 and up.