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Hold Fast

3.80  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,231 Ratings  ·  486 Reviews
From NYT bestselling author Blue Balliett, the story of a girl who falls into Chicago's shelter system, and from there must solve the mystery of her father's strange disappearance.

Where is Early's father? He's not the kind of father who would disappear. But he's gone . . . and he's left a whole lot of trouble behind.

As danger closes in, Early, her mom, and her brother have
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published March 1st 2013 by Scholastic Press
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May 18, 2013 Betsy rated it it was ok
I honestly don't think you can be a reviewer without being honest about your own personal prejudices first. When I pick up a book for children I have to cut through a thick swath of issues infecting my brain that may have little to nothing to do with the book in hand. Maybe I was forced to read Stuart Little when I was a child and that's why I've never liked animal fantasies. Maybe a poorly constructed sports novel burned a small hole in my soul and that's why this particular baseball novel isn' ...more
Blue Balliett is one of the best children's authors writing today. Her characters are always well developed and worthy of great admiration. In this latest novel, Hold Fast, reading is front and center as the glue that holds together a family of four living on the poor in Chicago, and it is reading, with a major emphasis on Langston Hughes, that is their hope for survival when 11-year-old Early Pearl's father disappears and she ends up in a shelter with her mother and 4-year-old brother. Early mu ...more
There were things about this book that I really liked, but there were more things about it that...really bothered me.

First of all, none of the characters felt like real people to me; I just didn't find them believable, and that made it really hard to connect with them. And all the Langston Hughes and Word Book stuff and...just the way the main characters in the story talk about books and reading really got in the way for me, and just came across as pandering to adults who love books about books
Despite being a word person, I actually found the very poetry-ish, word play nature of the writing to be distracting and difficult to plow through. Maybe because I'm word-ish, but not poetry-ish. Regardless. I was really pulled in by the plot, and loved the focus on homelessness - not an issue you see at ALL often in children's literature. I often found myself wishing there was a little less hobnobbing with rhymes and rhythms, and more plot/issue focus. That said, I'm aware I'm probably in the ( ...more
Connie  Kuntz
Mar 30, 2013 Connie Kuntz rated it really liked it
I read this one aloud to our kids. They loved it, and so did I. The story follows the thought process of a very literate young girl who holds her family together during a crisis (crICEs).

From a homeschooling perspective, this was a great book to share with our kids. The author treats homelessness, sickness, spirituality, temptation, despair, brief friendships, long friendships, and dreams with respect and depth. The care she takes to incorporate Langston Hughes's artistry is truly inspired.

Ann Haefele
Jun 29, 2013 Ann Haefele rated it liked it
I had mixed feelings about this story as I wasn't sure if the author intended it to be a story about a family living in a homeless shelter or a mystery involving books, libraries, and diamonds. The setting of a homeless shelter in Chicago was compelling and I would give five stars to that part of the book, but the mystery part seemed confusing, a bit implausible and above the intended audience's (early middle school/upper elem) head. Twelve year old Early and her younger brother and mother end u ...more
I am sketching out a list of “important juvenile fiction books and authors.” You should know that I think books and writers are important period, but this list is for those who place intimate conversations of a social and creative consciousness into the hands of young people. Blue Balliett is located with indelible ink on this list. With Hold Fast, Balliett has used her considerable gift to not only pen a compelling mystery, but to raise awareness for the plight of our homeless children. She als ...more
Jul 14, 2014 Dana rated it really liked it
Shelves: juvenile-fiction
I wasn't sure, based on many reviews I read, if I would like this one but as it turns out I did. I listened to the audiobook and loved the word play and "rhythms" throughout the story. The story was different and while the plot was far-fetched, it was still interesting and enjoyable. I loved the setting of inner city Chicago and the depiction of shelter life.

As to some of the negative reviews I've read here's what I think...some people complained that this book panders to librarians. I think th
I really wanted to like this book: a unique setting (homeless shelters in Chicago--not many of THOSE books floating around), a mystery (I'm a big mystery fan), and a library employee (I'm a wannabee).

But this novel just didn't work for me. It's not a bad read, and no doubt there middle grades students who will enjoy it. I appreciate the unique aspects of the setting and thought the shelter scenes were done well as was the portrayal of the family's experience being homeless in general. Well done.
Travis Niemeyer
Feb 24, 2013 Travis Niemeyer rated it it was ok
I feel oddly left out, like I missed something in this book that everyone else saw. I really wanted to enjoy this book because I've enjoyed Blue Balliet's book before. However, I had difficulty getting into the characters and found little that advanced the plot. I felt that the author tried to suggest would-be villains but they never progressed past a passing comment. Finally, I found the ending anti-climatic. Maybe I just expected too much, but it certainly fell short of Balliet's previous work ...more
Oct 18, 2015 Irene rated it really liked it
A sweet and touching book about family. Loved the sentences throughout the mystery. And yes, I did expect this from a classic book.
Jamie Sorenson
Jun 22, 2016 Jamie Sorenson rated it it was amazing
Choose a character you'd like (or not to like) as a friend. Tell why:

I believe that the character Early Pearl would be a great friend to have. She is brave and tough, even during hard times. Her bravery showed when she look for clues of her missing father in the library where he worked. Early is also caring and has a big heart.I look for friends with such qualities in character. Kindness goes far in life. Early had helped care for her younger brother and was was there for her mother during the h
May 25, 2013 Donalyn rated it really liked it
I loved so many things about this book: the characters; the exaltation of reading, books, and libraries; the frank portrayals of homeless children's lives. I thought the plot stretched credibility at times, and I struggled to determine what child would enjoy this book. I plan to pass Hold Fast to one of my adventurous student readers and see what she thinks.
Apr 12, 2016 Cmwagoner rated it really liked it
Shelves: wow-books
This book is about a young girl named Early who is raised to love books. Her parents love books and words in general and have fostered a deep love for words in her, as well. Her father works at a library, and goes missing, but he does leave behind some clues (that include words and patterns!) for Early to pick up on. After their father goes missing, their apartment is broken into and their safety and lives are at danger. They are not a well-off family, and they are forced to live in a shelter fo ...more
Feb 21, 2013 Jennifer rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery, 2013
Dash Pearl loves words and puzzles, and he has passed this passion on to his daughter Early and son Jubilation. He often comes home with riddles, rhymes and interesting stories to entertain Early and Jubie. Though Dash can barely support his wife and children with his meager salary as a page in the Chicago Public Library System, he has big dreams that his family can one day move out of their one room apartment and into their own home. When a mysterious man offers Dash a second job selling used b ...more
Mary Ann
Mar 28, 2013 Mary Ann rated it it was amazing
Blue Balliett centers her most recent book around the rhythms and themes of Langston's Hughes poetry, but the story is firmly rooted in today's urban American landscape. Balliet's novel touched me - it's a powerful, emotional story of the way a young girl tenaciously holds fast to her dreams, in the face of terrible circumstances.

One bitterly cold winter afternoon, Early Pearl's father disappears. One minute Dash is riding his bike home from work, and the next he is gone, without a trace. As ele
Mar 07, 2013 Tasha rated it really liked it
Shelves: childrens-books
Early lives in a warm and loving family. Her father Dash is a lover of words and word games. Her mother Sum and little brother Jubie make up the total of four in their family. But when Dash gets involved in something shady, their loving family becomes three. Then people raid their home, breaking down the door and they are forced to head to a shelter without knowing where Dash is or how he will find them again in the big city of Chicago. Early finds she has to be the strong one as her mother begi ...more
Jul 13, 2013 Jennifer rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2013-reads
How you feel about Hold Fast, the latest of a series of novels by Balliett that both educate and entertain, probably depends on where the emphasis of your interest falls, on the former or the latter.

If the former, Hold should be right up your alley. It's a gripping, even heart-rending, tale of a family living on the financial edge and what happens when they tip over it. It deserves to be read for its sympathetic yet jarring depictions of shelter life and what that kind of life can do to the peop
Jul 11, 2013 Melissa rated it it was amazing
Shelves: children-chapter
This is an amazing read that makes you look at the world and people differently. In all honesty, I almost abandoned this book. The beginning was confusing and choppy to me. However, I am so glad I stuck with it. Hold Fast is a beautiful, multi-faceted book about a family who becomes homeless and moves into a shelter. The genre is tricky; it's a combination of realistic fiction and mystery. I particularly enjoyed the realistic fiction. Blue Balliett, the author, does a tremendous job portraying t ...more
Mar 25, 2013 Audrey rated it it was amazing
Overall, this book is hard-hitting. Not only does it bring about awareness of homelessness, poverty, and life in the shelter system of one of America's larger cities, but it preaches a message of hope and dreams. It is in many respects about the American dream, muddled and delayed. Langston Hughes plays such a pivotal role in the story, which underlines the role of education in providing a means to rise above one's circumstances, but also to make life meaningful and rich. The Pearl family may no ...more
Nov 08, 2013 Melissapalmer404 rated it it was amazing
Book #90 Read in 2013
Hold Fast by Blue Balliett (YA)

This is an author who I have tried several books of, without finishing any of them. This one, however, I loved. A family, not very rich but very loving, uses reading and books as a way to connect them. Then the father comes up missing and people break in and wreck the family's home. There is obviously something bad going on and Sum and her children, Early and Jubie, are forced to head into a shelter while they continue to hope that Dash will ma
Madeleine S.
Dec 01, 2015 Madeleine S. rated it it was amazing
In the book, Hold Fast, by Blue Balliett a family of four is separated and becomes a family of three. This book is thought provoking and heart-warming. in the book, we follow the life of the Pearl family, their daughter, Early, their son, Jubilation, and the mom and dad, Dash and Summer. When Dash is found to be missing, the family must "hold fast" to each other and learn to help survive on their own. From break-ins to losing their homes, the Pearl family goes through everything together and the ...more
Alex Templeton
May 05, 2013 Alex Templeton rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent juvenile novel, one for classrooms and libraries everywhere. In it, young Early tries to follow her father's advice and "hold fast" when he mysteriously disappears and her family is forced to move into a homeless shelter. Balliett does a terrific job depicting what life is like for so many (too many) youth across America, but in a way that won't completely overwhelm the intended younger audience. Readers also will be engaged by the mystery aspect of the novel, as Early tries ...more
Jun 27, 2014 Bryce rated it it was amazing
Shelves: chapter-books
The writing in this is poetic, and it gives a glimpse of shelter life while wrapping the reader up in a mystery. I found myself thinking about this book even when I wasn't reading it. Definitely one that I'll hand sell a lot now!
Teresa Bunner
Feb 08, 2013 Teresa Bunner rated it really liked it
Blue Balliet loves words. And she wields them well in this intriguing story. It is a story of courage, faith, persistance and love told in the context of a mystery. If I had to choose a weakness in the book it would be that the mystery is so secondary to everything else that it isn't as well developed as I think it could be. But that comes from an adult reader. I think the target audience for this book will love it. And I am thankful to Ms. Balliet for writing a book about an African-American fa ...more
Jun 30, 2013 Meisbres rated it it was amazing
Shelves: children-mystery
In one short week, Early loses her father, her home, and her whole way of life. Her family is forced to stay in a homeless shelter while Sum, a stay-at home mom, looks for work. Early refuses to believe that her father abandoned his family and sets out to uncover the truth. Her detecting leads to unexpected twists and turns as she discovers what may be the answer to a years-old diamond theft mystery.

This beautifully written book will make you want to read Langston Hugh poetry, save the world's h
I only had a couple days to read the ARC before giving it away to one of the kids at our Chasing Vermeer book discussion. Thus I spent a weekend completely immersed in the world of “Dashsumearlyjubie," breathing in Blue Balliett’s beautiful writing. It’s no wonder one of the themes of this book is rhythm... Blue herself is so gifted at creating rhythms with her words. Like her other books, this one has a Chicago setting, and the majority of the scenes take place in a homeless shelter. There are ...more
Mar 19, 2013 Pam rated it it was ok
I was so excited to read this book because I have absolutely loved all Blue Balliet's previous books, but this one just did not work for me at all. Perhaps it was Balliett's attempt to advocate a political position in her book that distracted her from her best writing. The development of her characters and setting were okay, but the story lacked sufficient mystery to propel me through the book. It just bogged down. Where were the clues to the mystery in the middle of the book? By the time the my ...more
Dec 27, 2015 Audrey rated it really liked it
Balliett's love for her students and her love for teaching really shine in all her novels, and in this one perhaps most of all. Not only is this an interesting mystery about how people can get involved in the wrong things without knowing it, but it's also a celebration of reading/words, family, and home. Even more, it is a chilling glimpse into the world of homelessness in one of our nation's largest cities -- and done in a way that is sure to catch the attention of upper elementary and middle s ...more
Nov 20, 2013 Leslie rated it really liked it
Shelves: middlegrade
The Pearl family is a sweet family from the south side of Chicago that, through a series of unfortunate events, become homeless. This book was mainly an education on homelessness and less of a mystery. I learned much about shelter living and feel that this book would create empathy in children as they read about the Pearls' challenges. However, the mystery was rather thin and felt tacked on. I loved the addition of Langston Hughes' work. A great read for thoughtful children who want to understan ...more
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Hold Fast 1 1 Oct 14, 2015 04:49PM  
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I was born in New York City and grew up playing in Central Park, getting my share of scraped knees, and riding many public buses and subways. By the time I was a teenager, I sometimes stopped at the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Frick Museum after school, just to wander and look and think. The Met has five Vermeer paintings and the Frick three, so Vermeer and I have been friends for many years ...more
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