Learning the Code of the Road: SOUPY LEAVES HOME

Lynn: Cecil Castellucci’s new graphic novel, Soupy Leaves Home (2017), offers a terrific way to absorb some fascinating history. Set during the Great Depression, it tells the compelling story of Pearl, a young girl who runs away from her abusive father. Desperately unhappy and with nowhere to go, she decides to disguise herself as a boy and ride the rails. She jumps a train with the help of Ramshackle, an old man who introduces her to the hidden culture of the hoboes and teaches her the rules of survival—the Code of the Road. Calling herself Soupy, Pearl says little, keeping her secrets from Ramshackle even as she comes to care for him.

Soupy Leaves Home by Cecil CastellucciAs Pearl and Ramshackle travel across the country, Pearl slowly heals and gains confidence in herself. Castellucci’s research really shows in her rich portrayal of the historical period and the hoboes’ world. Readers gradually come to know the cast of characters through the partnership of wonderfully crafted text and Jose Pimienta’s expressive illustrations. Strong panel design and striking monochromatic color choices propel the reader across the pages.

The hoboes’ belief in honor and mutual support permeates the story, connecting to both an intriguing mystery and Pearl’s understanding of her own strengths. Soupy and her engaging companions have much to say to young people in today’s climate.

I also love the back matter. Castellucci provides a bibliography of further resources and a collection of some of the signs hoboes used to communicate. History should always be this much fun!

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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