cover image Nowhere to Call Home

Nowhere to Call Home

Cynthia C. DeFelice. Farrar Straus Giroux, $16 (208pp) ISBN 978-0-374-35552-4

This realistic rags-to-riches (and back again) tale set in the time of Hoovervilles and bread lines follows a girl who takes up a hobos life. Sheltered, wealthy Frances Barrows world is thrown into chaos when her fathers factories go bankrupt and he kills himself during the Depression. When she hears a servants plan to become a hobo and ride the rails, 12-year-old Frances sees a way out of being sent from her home in Philadelphia to live with her stern aunt in Chicago. She gives the slip to the adults, cashes in her train ticket and disguises herself as a boy, leaping into a dark boxcar headed for Pittsburgh and freedom. DeFelice (Clever Crow) convincingly depicts Francess transformation to boy vagabond Frankie Blue, as well as the heroines blossoming friendship with Stewpot, the seasoned 15-year-old who takes her under his wing right from the get-go. By disguising Frances as a boy, the author cleverly evades graphic details of the dangers to frills, or girls on the move (alluding to the dangers through a few cameo appearances by other down-and-out females). Details of the Depression get more weight than character development; while readers will have a clear sense of the destitution that characterized the era, they may have less of a sense of who Frances is. Nonetheless, they will likely be relieved that she finally decides to leave a life on the streets for the safety of her aunts home. Ages 10-up. (Apr.)