Nowhere to Call Home

by Cynthia DeFelice
Reading level: Ages 9-12


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.


NCSS-CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Book 2000

A Note from the Author

I’d heard and read a lot about the hoboes who hopped on board freight trains during the Great Depression, hoping to find food or work. I’d always imagined them as middle-aged men, until I read that 250,000 of them were 11-18 years old. A quarter of a million homeless children! I knew then that I wanted to write about one of those children.

Frances Elizabeth Barrow, a girl of wealth and privilege, suddenly finds herself an orphan without a penny to her name. All she has is the clothes on her back and a train ticket to her aunt’s house in Chicago. But she’s heard Junius, the gardener, talk about hoboes. To Frankie, it sounds fun and exciting, far better than living with her aunt….

Research for this book was difficult, but fun, also, as I learned about the special language of hoboes, and the ways they found to survive.


“DeFelice’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…” – Booklist

Nowhere to Call Home by Cynthia DeFelice
Hardcover – 208 pages 1 Ed edition (April 1999)
Farrar Straus & Giroux (Juv); ISBN: 0374355525