Monday, May 23, 2011

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: Nowhere to Call Home

Several years ago, my kids and I read through the decades of American history, middle grade historical fiction style. We found many amazing reads, one of which was Nowhere to Call Home by Cynthia DeFelice. First published in 1999, this novel brings today's readers back to the desperate times of the Great Depression and reminds us that those times of hardship are still the plight of many today.

The premise: When her father takes his own life after financial ruin brought on by the Great Depression, Frances is left with nothing. The servants who raised her were her family, and now they're gone too. She cashes in a train ticket to her aunt's house, transforms herself into a boy named Frankie, and rides the rails with others who have "nowhere to call home."

What keeps readers reading: Adventure. And the reality of that adventure. Frances (Frankie) meets another hobo named Stewpot; he becomes her big brother and protector. Stewpot teaches Frankie about surviving life on the move and making the most with what you have. But when Stewpot gets very, very sick, Frances realizes riding the rails isn't the adventure she thought it would be.

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13 comments:

  1. This sounds like a good story. Did you enjoy it?

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  2. Yes! I enjoyed it thoroughly (and perhaps more importantly, so did my kids - since their the target age of this novel). Learning history through a story provides such a better picture of the time period for me than a history class or text book.

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  3. What a brilliant idea! Reading through the decades! I will add this to my to read list. I've been meaning to re-read (so I can book talk it) Karen Hesse's Out of the Dust, your recommend would be a good one to pair it with.

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  4. Sounds great. I love the format for your review.

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  5. Deb, I have Out of the Dust as one to read aloud to my kids soon!

    Tina, thank you.

    Other excellent reads from the Depression era are MOON OVER MANIFEST and ESPERANZA RISING.

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  6. I've never heard of this one. Thanks for the review. I like the idea of reading novels that help define certain periods of history because sometimes a story is easier to identify with than nonfiction.

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  7. I too love the format of your review. Thanks for bringing another great MG book to my attention!

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  8. Sounds great. I don't read too much historical fiction. That's great your kids like it.

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  9. Michael, thank you. And anytime I can share another historical fiction book with anyone - time well spent.

    Natalie,not too much historical fiction? What? I'm kidding. The genre as a whole saved me - I can now remember history when it's tied to a story.

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  10. I haven't heard of this book before, so thanks for bringing it to my attention, Barbara!

    Great review. I love books where girls disguise themselves as guys to get along in a man's world. I guess it would have been tough for a girl to ride the rails during the Depression.

    You already know I love Moon Over Manifest. Out of the Dust is extremely powerful, but sad!

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  11. Thank you, Joanne. The disguise is an intrigue, always makes me wonder, had I lived in a different time, if I would've done something like that to get what I want.

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  12. I do like this one, and readers who like this often enjoy Hunt's No Promises in the Wind, and DeFelice's Under the Same Sky is good as well.

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  13. Thank you for stopping by, Ms. Yingling. And thank you for the additional suggestions.

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