Beauty, Art, Music in Literature Books Genre graphic novel Lifespan of a Reader Reading Themes Young Adult (YA) Literature

Finding Beauty In The Kindness Of Strangers As Portrayed In A Coming Of Age Graphic Novel

Soupy Leaves Home by Cecil Castellucci, Jose Pimienta, and Nate Piekos.

Myra here.

This title called out to me from the library shelves. While I am familiar with Cecil Castellucci’s picturebook (see my review of Grandma’s Gloves), I didn’t realize that she also wrote graphic novels. The back blurb described it as a coming-of-age graphic novel about two misfits finding each other, so I took it home, not really sure whether it would fit our theme, but hoping that it will.

Soupy Leaves Home

Written by Cecil Castellucci Illustrated by Jose Pimienta Lettered by Nate Piekos of Blambot
Published by Dark Horse Books (2017).
ISBN: 1616554312 (ISBN13: 9781616554316). Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

A young girl Pearl has left an abusive and loveless home devoid of warmth and understanding. She had no plan, nowhere to go, owned nothing but the clothes on her back stolen from some random clothesline in her attempts to disguise herself as a boy.

Even Pearl’s own dead mother knew that being a woman means never being free from cleaning, cooking, and being trapped with the devil that lives behind the eyes of entitled men who think that a woman’s place is in the kitchen. Set in the Depression era, this book still has resonances even up to the present time, except that there is now a veneer of respectability that masks the insidious reality of patriarchy, machinations of masculinity, and outright misogyny.

And then the reader gets introduced to Ramshackle, an old man who has taken Pearl-turned-Soupy under his wing and protection. It was happenstance, fortuitous, or even divine intervention – but this is a beautiful reminder that even in the midst of pain, there is beauty; even in despair, there is magic.

There was something about him that reminded me a little bit of the Jewish-Italian waiter Guido Orefice (portrayed by Roberto Benigni) from the award-winning film A Beautiful Life. Yet, Ramshackle was not all roses and flowers and make-believe. He was “good people.” More importantly, he is able to see through people, and celebrate the light within, even if that person has not found it yet within himself.

There were also moments of captured beauty – in keeping with our current reading theme, as can be found in the images below:

Another unforgettable thing for me was the description of Mulligan Stew…

… how a variety of the most unlikely flavours come together in the most unexpectedly beautiful, tasty, and filling way.

This graphic novel caught me sideways. It made me tear up despite my jaded, cynical reader’s heart. There is a raw vulnerability that is permitted to surface here as told through a vagabond’s eyes – a wanderer who has lost most everything, except the dream in his eyes. In a world that is increasingly beset with paranoia, this is a reminder of the beauty to be found in the kindness of strangers. It happens more than we think. There is still beauty everywhere. We just have to open our eyes to it.

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Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

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