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Soupy Leaves Home: 05/18/18

Soupy Leaves Home

Soupy Leaves Home by Cecil Castellucci is a historical graphic novel set during the Depression. Pearl Plankette escapes her abusive father and runs away. After swapping her dress for some boy's overalls and a cap, she is befriended by a hobo who calls himself Ramshackle. Needing a new identity she settles on the name Soupy.

Castellucci combines the history and lore of hobo code with an orphan magic road narrative. Soupy learns that she isn't alone in the desire to separate herself from her family, to effectively self invoke orphan status and if one follows the code, reap the rewards of orphan magic.

Interestingly, too, is way the cardinal directions are used as a metaphorical way of living one's life. For Soupy who wishes to stay lost, she follows Remy south. North is when you know where you are and you have a steady path. West is where you go to die. East is going home.

These philosophical statements of direction are something to keep in mind in comparison to Baum's Oz books. Although a printing error is "blamed" on the reversal of East and West on the Oz map, I believe the error was to the service of the world building and to Dorothy's journey both through Oz and as a form of character growth.

Soupy too grows and starts to see Ramshackle as a stand in father figure. When he eventually does go west — first literary for his health (presumably tuberculosis) and then metaphorically, Soupy realizes it's time to be homeward bound (from which hobo is derived). She resumes her old life, but independent now. She finds a job. She goes east to attend Ramshackle's funeral and to tell his family (a wife and child) about his passing.

As some reviews have criticized, Soupy's experience as a hobo as well as the hobo lifestyle is romanticized. I take the romanticism as a metaphorical setting for given a different setting would be a classic coming of age fantasy questing story. The hobo code and songs and signs here are used as a foundation for the book's magical realism, with the emphasis being on the realism wit the magical there to convey character growth.

Four stars

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