HomeBooks by AgeAges 4-8Hold Fast by Blue Balliett | Book Review

Hold Fast by Blue Balliett | Book Review

Elizabeth Varadan | The Children’s Book Review | September 11, 2013


By Blue Balliett

Age Range: 8 and up

Hardcover: 288 pages

Publisher: Scholastic Press; First Edition edition (March 1, 2013)

What to Expect: Homelessness, mystery, reversals, clues hidden in language.

The title for this complex, poignant tale comes from a Langston Hughes poem: “Hold Fast to Dreams.” Eleven-year-old Early Pearl’s father, Dash, quotes poetry to his family. The Hughes poem has special resonance: The Pearls live in a one room apartment in Chicago, holding fast to a dream of having their own house with rooms for everyone.

Dash bicycles to his job as a library page at the downtown public library. Lately he has taken on an additional job cataloging books at home for a mysterious client. One day, Dash disappears, a disappearance first treated negligently, then suspiciously by the police.

Early, her mother, Sum, and her little brother, Jubie, find mysterious money in the apartment. They also have Dash’s copy of Langston Hughes’ The First Book of Rhythms and a notebook filled with a cryptic record of number patterns. Early decides these are clues. While the Pearls are trying to sort out how to find Dash, three masked men and a masked woman break down their door and ransack the apartment, searching for something. After they leave, taking every book they can find, a neighbor advises the family to flee to to a shelter.

Life is hard at the shelter. But Early’s father, in a dream, advises her, “Research rhythms.” Following this advice, Early turns sleuth and unravels a dangerous plot, even as she creates a project that offers hope for other homeless families.

The author paints a sensitive portrait of what it means to be suddenly homeless and in danger. Early is a heartwarming protagonist, resilient and smart. The author’s love of language shines on every page, enhancing the story’s movement. Each chapter is defined by one word with multiple meanings, underscoring the complexity of this satisfying plot.

“Peering out the window, Early thought about how lucky the other people in their cars must be: people who knew where their fathers were, people with homes to go to, people who talked and laughed as they drove, people who weren’t scared for their lives.”

This book will appeal to readers in 5th through 7th grades who like a good mystery, poetry, and stories about hardship and changes in fortune.

Add this book to your collection: Hold Fast

Hold Fast was reviewed by Elizabeth Varadan.


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Elizabeth Varadan writes for children and adults. Her middle-grade mystery, Imogene and the Case of the Missing Pearls (published June 15, 2015), is set in Victorian London and she is currently working on Book Two. Varadan loves to read and write about the Victorian Era and blogs about the many things she uncovers in her research. Visit: <a href="http://elizabethvaradansfourthwish.blogspot.com">elizabethvaradansfourthwish.blogspot.com</a> and <a href="http://victorianscribbles.blogspot.com">victorianscribbles.blogspot.com</a>

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