Cover image for Nowhere to call home
Nowhere to call home
DeFelice, Cynthia C.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, [1999]

Physical Description:
199 pages ; 22 cm
When her father kills himself after losing his money in the stock market crash, twelve-year-old Frances, now a penniless orphan, decides to hop aboard a freight train and live the life of a hobo.
Reading Level:
870 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 5.3 7.0 39861.

Reading Counts RC 6-8 5.2 9 Quiz: 18936 Guided reading level: NR.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Juvenile Fiction Central Closed Stacks
X Juvenile Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



A Depression-era adventure from a master storyteller Tramping is for people with nothing to lose and nowhere to call home. Twelve-year-old Frances Elizabeth Barrow thinks that describes her when she clips her hair and, disguised as a boy, "flips" a train west. Left a penniless orphan after her father's bankruptcy and subsequent suicide, Frances is sure that hoboing is better than being sent to live with an unfamiliar aunt in Chicago. On the drag, she meets Stewpot, a fifteen-year-old boy who teaches her the ropes -- everything from the jargon to the signs the hoboes leave for one another, to how to outwit the cops. She also learns that being "free" exacts a price, and comes to appreciate her old life. Cynthia DeFelice captures the despair -- and the hope -- of individuals facing the Great Depression in this story about a spirited young heroine filled with resolve after all she has experienced.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 5^-8. Despite the ongoing Depression, 12-year-old Frances leads a life that's comfortable, orderly, and a little dull--until the night her father puts a bullet in his head. Suddenly she must pack a bag and travel by train to her aunt in Chicago. Instead, Frances, who has heard a little about hoboes riding the trains from one of the servants, cashes in her ticket, buys some boys' clothes, cuts her hair, and sneaks aboard a boxcar. Frances, who now calls herself Frankie, quickly realizes that hoboes live in a completely different society with its own rules, routines, and language. Fortunately, she finds a friend to guide her--Stewpot, a 15-year-old boy. Of course, there are a number of books with a similar theme, including Mary Downing Hahn's The Gentleman, the Outlaw, and Me--Eli (1996), but De Felice's historical novel is so real that every bump of the train can be felt. The smooth, vivid writing makes us experience the unfolding events and the nitty-gritty details right along with the characters, so as Frankie becomes increasingly horrified by the squalor and inhumanity she sees along her journey, we get a powerful sense of history. The ending is at once optimistic and poignant: Frankie will appreciate the comfort and security of her life even as she remembers the grim conditions she witnessed, and readers will feel sure that she will take advantage of her privilege to try to improve things for others. --Susan Dove Lempke

Publisher's Weekly Review

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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 4-6-After her father's suicide, 12-year-old Frances Elizabeth Barrow decides on a life of adventure by travelling around the country disguised as a young male hobo in this book by Cynthia De Felice (Farrar, 1999). An experienced teen transient, Stewpot, befriends her and she accompanies him on his excursions. She soon learns about the uncertainty involved with hopping freight cars and living with strangers, some of whom prove untrustworthy at best and dangerous at worst. Frankie Blue, her road moniker, eventually decides that living with a distant aunt in Chicago is far better than a dubious life on the road where finding a secure place to sleep and a meager meal is paramount. Narrator Alyssa Bresnahan effortlessly allows the Depression Era hobo terminology to roll off her tongue, and she convincingly conveys the emotions felt by Frances initially as an innocent after her father's death and then during her developing awareness of reality as a transient scrounging for food and companionship. She skillfully alters her vocal inflection and tone to enable listeners to aurally distinguish between various characters who interact with Frankie. This audiobook would be a valuable addition to historical fiction collections, and would complement an instructional unit focusing on Depression era social issues or on the reality of attempting to be self-sufficient at a young age. The last cassette features an insightful interview with accomplished author, Cynthia De Felice.-Cynthia Schulz, Northwest ESD 189, Mount Vernon, WA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.