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Hold Fast

Hold Fast

4.4 5
by Blue Balliett

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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 you think would disappear. But he's gone. And he's left a whole lot of trouble behind.

It's not enough that Early can't find


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 you think would disappear. But he's gone. And he's left a whole lot of trouble behind.

It's not enough that Early can't find out what's happened to him. His vanishing leads to Early and her mom and her brother being kicked out of their apartment. Having nowhere else to go, they move into Chicago's shelter system. And from there, Early must start getting answers to her questions.

Because Early's father hasn't disappeared without a trace. There ARE traces. And Early's going to use them to track her father down . . . and make her way out of a very tough place.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Audio
★ 08/19/2013
Eleven-year-old Early loves her family: her father, Dashiell (called Dash), who works at a library and enjoys wordplay of all kinds; her mother, Summer (called Sum); and her little brother, Jubilation (called Jubie). Together they call their family "DashSumEarlyJubie," delighting in how their names "click" together like magnets, the family members fitting together perfectly in a happy unit. But after doing some off-hours work cataloging books at home, Dash mysteriously disappears, criminals threaten the family and tear apart their apartment, and Early and her mother and brother end up out of money and trying to survive in the city's shelter system. It's up to Early to solve the mystery of what happened to her father and reunite the family. Balliett's novel is perfect for audio: Dash's talks with his family are full of alliteration and rhymes, and he often quotes the poems of Langston Hughes, which later give Early clues to solving the mystery. Narrator Bahni Turpin's superb reading brings out all the musicality and rhythm of the text, and she creates authentic, distinctive voices for a multitude of characters of varying ages and accents. Ages 8–12. A Scholastic hardcover. A Doubleday hardcover. (Mar.)
School Library Journal - Audio
Gr 6–9—Eleven-year-old Early Pearl, her little brother, Jubilation, and her mom are stunned when father Dash disappears one day on his way home from work as a page at the Chicago Public Library. When their apartment is broken into, most of their belongings are stolen and the family is threatened. They find themselves in an unexpected situation—living in a shelter. The loving circle of four is reduced to a nervous, uncertain, unmoored, and frightened trio struggling to hold on in an alien environment. As Early plays detective to try to figure out what might have happened to her beloved dad; she discovers that he held an extra job that involved taking inventory of a mysterious collection of books and thinks this position could play a central role in his disappearance. Early's mom starts to unravel, Jubie acts his age, and Early is far wiser than most tweens. While there are some flaws here—Early is too mature for her age, her dad is very naive, etc.—the story and characters are compelling. Bahni Turnpin narrates Balliett's story (Scholastic, 2013) in a warm, expressive voice, and her pacing and intonation are perfection. Her recitation of the Langston Hughes poetry that is incorporated throughout the novel is excellent.—B. Allison Gray, Goleta Library, CA
The New York Times Book Review - Abby McGanney Nolan
…the multifaceted Early Pearl, ever observant and always pondering, shines as bright as any diamond.
Publishers Weekly
The Pearl family doesn’t have much beside a shelf of books and a tight-knit bond between parents Dash and Summer and kids Early, 11, and her younger brother, Jubilation. When Dash disappears after taking a second job that involves transferring used books, the family’s apartment is violently ransacked, and the remaining Pearls must move to a homeless shelter. The third-person narrative mostly focuses on Early, but Balliett (The Danger Box) occasionally strays to an adult sensibility—to marvel at the architecture of a Chicago library branch (“an elegant conversation between stone and glass”) or to convey the hardships homeless kids face at school (“Most struggled at their grade level, having moved a bunch of times”). Early is sure that the key to unraveling her father’s disappearance lies in the one book he kept from his job, The First Book of Rhythms by Langston Hughes, and though she does some sleuthing, the mystery is largely explained in conventional exposition by adults. Still, this novel abounds in heart, shining a spotlight on the gritty truths about homelessness. Ages 8–12. Agent: Doe Coover, Doe Coover Agency. (Mar.)
From the Publisher


"Balliett is an original . . . Thick with devilish red herrings, this smart, playful story never stops challenging (and exhilarating) the audience." -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

"Puzzles, codes, letters, number and wordplay, a bit of danger, a vivid sense of place, and a wealth of quirky characters enrich the exciting, fast-paced story that's sure to be relished by mystery lovers." -- SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL

Praise for THE WRIGHT 3:

*"Another tour de force." -- KIRKUS REVIEWS, starred review

Praise for HOLD FAST:

"[Blue Balliett's] latest and most heart-rending novel . . . [The] multi-faceted Early Pearl, ever observant and always pondering, shines as bright as any diamond." -- NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW

*"Wonderful . . . will pierce all readers" -- BOOKLIST, starred review

*"A moving story of homelessness, family, and the love of words and books . . . Enthralling and satisfying." -- KIRKUS REVIEWS, starred review

*"Balliett paints a vivid picture, a literary composition reminiscent of an Impressionist painting . . . Excellent." -- SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL, starred review

"This novel abounds in heart, shining a spotlight on the gritty truths about homelessness." -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY


A 2013 Parents' Choice Gold Award Winner

Children's Literature - Elisabeth Greenberg
Blue Balliett loves words and uses them to advantage in this mystery that draws attention to family homelessness and shelter life in Chicago. Intimations and clues are scattered throughout the book by introducing a group of defined words before each vignette about a struggling family. Part of the intrigue is to figure out which idea and which word meaning is paramount at any time. We know from the first two pages that home as people and home as haven are important and that there has been a diamond robbery in Amsterdam. But how do these bits of information relate to a mysterious bike accident in the snow, which leaves no clues and no body, only a missing dad? What happens to a family of four that loses its wage earner and is visited by mysterious thugs in search of something, but what? The daughter Early tries to search through her mental snapshots, her dad’s notebook and word play, her knowledge of his workplace and his history to solve her family’s specific problems at the shelter where she, her mom, and her brother have landed. Along the way she learns about the homeless first-hand from her new friends and the devastation shelter life works on her own family members. With compassion informed by fact and feeling, Early comes up with a plan to find homes for the homeless! This book is a wonderful addition to personal, school, public, and shelter libraries. Reviewer: Elisabeth Greenberg; Ages 8 to 12.
School Library Journal
Gr 6–9—The four Pearls live in a one-room apartment in South Side Chicago, rejoicing in their love for reading and celebrating words and poetic rhythms while keeping their eye on the dream of a house of their own. Dash, the father, works at the library, quotes Langston Hughes, and takes on some extra work for a dealer of old books, hoping to build up the family nest egg. When he disappears, and a violent break-in forces Early; her mother, Sum; and her younger brother, Jubilation, to escape to a homeless shelter, they are sure that their father will show up soon and they will be together again. But Dash's strange disappearance and the police's refusal to believe that there is more to the story cause Early to summon her strength and follow the clues herself. Balliett paints a vivid picture, a literary composition reminiscent of an Impressionist painting, and the landscape of life as a child within the social-services system comes into focus through the eyes of an 11-year-old. Early's interactions with the other kids at the shelter and at school help her devise a letter-writing campaign about housing for the homeless that one hopes might gain a foothold in the real world. This is an engaging mystery in which books are both the problem and the solution, and the author shows that the fight to hold fast to your dreams rewards those who persevere. Excellent.—Cheryl Ashton, Amherst Public Library, OH
Kirkus Reviews
Eleven-year-old Early Pearl holds fast to her family's dream of a home of their own even after her father disappears, their apartment is ransacked, and she and her brother and mother are forced to move to a shelter. Taking her title from a Langston Hughes poem, the author of Chasing Vermeer (2004) weaves a moving story of homelessness, family, and the love of words and books. This mystery opens promisingly with a wintertime bike accident, a man's disappearance and a series of numerical coincidences. A warm family circle of four is broken; there's a violent burglary; the three remaining flee to Helping Hand. Early and her 4-year-old brother, Jubilation, play at being spies, but the fifth grader does real detective work, researching in the Chicago Public Library, where her father worked, and enlisting the help of some sympathetic adults. Gradually she, and readers, come to realize that her dad has been caught up in an international crime operation and that all of them are in danger. Early's family reads; her father is such an admirer of Langston Hughes that the poet's The First Book of Rhythms is a family treasure and plays a vital role in the solution of this intricate tale. Chapters are identified by word definitions (possible clues) and line patterns reminiscent of those in Hughes' book. Enthralling and satisfying. (Mystery. 9-13)

Product Details

Scholastic, Inc.
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 5.90(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

Blue Balliett is the author of several bestselling, acclaimed mystery novels, including Chasing Vermeer (a Book Sense Book of the Year and an Edgar Award winner), The Wright 3, The Calder Game, and The Danger Box. She writes in the laundry room of her home in Chicago, Illinois, and you can find her online at blueballiettbooks.com.

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Hold Fast 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is by far the best Blue Balliett book. Join Early Pearl as she, her mom Summer, and her little brother Jubilation hold fast to the family. Unfortunately, there are no pentominoes in this one. I recommend this for any reader(including any adults who are Blue Balliett fans)ages eight and up. Happy reading!~Etalien
book4children More than 1 year ago
This was a weird read for me. I expected to like this book a lot, but unfortunately, it just didn't measure up to my expectations. The Pearl family ends up homeless after their father mysteriously disappears. The first half of the book deals with homeless life, getting settled and adjusting to living in a shelter, etc. It isn't until the second half of the book that we get any clues on the missing father. I had a difficult time connecting to the style of writing and to the characters. I went into the book expecting a mystery, and ended up getting wrapped up in the social issue surrounding homeless families. Just when I had adjusted my thinking to that side of the story, it became a mystery again. There was also a lot of talk of rhythm, numbers, and poetry. I will admit that my thoughts wandered in those parts. On the plus side, I did like the mystery. Not everything was believable, but that's okay. Ultimately, I'd say give this book a shot. Most of the reasons I had for not enjoying the book were due to my own personal taste, so you may love it. Besides, the cover is ah-mazing! Content: Clean
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is a great book but so sad i read it in class one day we thought dash was never coming home
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very well rounded book