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Hold Me Tight

Hold Me Tight

4.0 4
by Lorie Ann Grover

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"I'm leaving."

Dad's words come as a complete shock to Essie. How can he just walk out on her and the family, especially when Mom is pregnant?

Essie keeps her dad's leaving a secret. Then Essie's classmate, Chris Crow, disappears, and everyone finds out he's been kidnapped. Is Chris okay? Is Dad ever coming back? Essie is left to wonder if people really have any


"I'm leaving."

Dad's words come as a complete shock to Essie. How can he just walk out on her and the family, especially when Mom is pregnant?

Essie keeps her dad's leaving a secret. Then Essie's classmate, Chris Crow, disappears, and everyone finds out he's been kidnapped. Is Chris okay? Is Dad ever coming back? Essie is left to wonder if people really have any control over what happens in their lives.

Finally, after a startling incident with a family friend, Essie finds the strength to hold on tight to all that she has left -- and in the process realizes that the bonds of love and family do hold a person together.

Inspired by true events, Hold Me Tight is a moving and powerful novel. An author's note provides further information about kidnapping and the Amber Plan programs that are in use today to help communities find abducted children.

Editorial Reviews

Three serious and painful issues are deftly woven together in this smartly written, moving, and thought-provoking novel-in-verse. Grover creates an authentic voice in her narrator, fifth grader Estele "Essie" Sherman, who must deal with the recent abandonment by her father and the kidnapping of her classmate, Chris. Meanwhile she must also be strong for her little brother, Dale, and her pregnant mother. As Essie's troubles blend with her distress for Chris and his family, she begins to realize the importance of family and friendship. Just as this understanding begins to dawn, a horrible experience involving a male family friend tempts her to retreat into herself again. With the love of her family, best friend Wally, and a host of church friends and neighbors, however, she realizes that although her father may be gone, she is far from alone. Grover tackles heavy material without being dark or preachy. Her juxtaposing of parental abandonment and kidnapping reflect two very different sides of loss. The author not only delicately handles the topics but also leaves readers knowing that Essie and her family, including new baby, Kevin, are going to be just fine. It is the perfect title to use as bibliotherapy for youth who have dealt with any of the issues covered here and is a recommended purchase for middle school and public libraries alike. VOYA CODES: 4Q 2P M (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; For the YA with a special interest in the subject; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8). 2005, Margaret K. McElderry/S & S, 352p., Ages 11 to 14.
—Shari Fesko
School Library Journal
Gr 4-7-Told in evocative prose poetry, this powerful story is sure to touch the hearts of many readers. Twelve-year-old Essie's Thanksgiving holiday is completely ruined when her father walks into the room and announces, "I'm leaving." Essie's mother, heavily pregnant and unable to work, attempts to cope with the depression and the fears of Essie and seven-year-old Dale, but things only get worse. Essie's classmate Chris is kidnapped, and her mother's friend, Mr. Paul, tries to touch Essie in an inappropriate manner. Crisis after crisis looms, and finally, as the baby's birth is imminent, the family starts to regain its footing with the help of others in the community. Although heavily burdened with her own fears, Essie's mother is ultimately able to help the children deal with their father's abandonment with dignity and understanding, and Essie realizes that love provides the strength for their little family to hold together and survive and thrive.-Susan Riley, Mount Kisco Public Library, NY Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An unrelenting string of bad experiences related in brief poems, this is another issue-oriented story by Grover. Essie's father leaves the family abruptly and unexpectedly. Her mother is pregnant and unable to work, so money troubles loom, along with the shock and hurt that Essie, her mother, and her younger brother feel. Then Essie's classmate Chris disappears, kidnapped by a stranger in a pick-up truck. Finally, to add to Essie's misery, fear and self-doubt, an old family friend assaults her. Essie's first-person, present-tense narration offers readers an intimate, if narrow, view of events. Unfortunately, the narrative isn't always convincing-would a contemporary child, for example, truly not be aware of French kissing, at least as a concept? In addition, there are problems with the flow of the text; line breaks often seem arbitrary, rather than emphasizing or enhancing meaning. Essie and her family do find ways to connect with friends, new and old, who help them to cope. Whether readers will hang on long enough to appreciate the positive ending is an open question. (Fiction. 9-12)

Product Details

Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
0.79(w) x 5.00(h) x 8.00(d)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Read an Excerpt

Hold Me Tight

By Lorie Ann Grover

Margaret K. McElderry

Copyright © 2005 Lorie Ann Grover
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0689852487

From Chapter 1

Sunday Night

"I'm leaving."

Dad stands above me

in the living room.

His eyes are

empty black spots.

On the floor,

I cram my fingers

into the throw rug fringe.

The strings

twist and grab

and hold me tight.

My little brother, Dale, is crying.

Since he's only seven,

how much does he understand?

His eyes dart like zigzag lightning

from Dad

to Mom.

"Be a man, Dale," my dad says.

Mom's eyes


like her pregnant belly.

She rocks on her knees

on the cold terrazzo floor.

"Good-bye, Essie-girl," Dad says to me.

His brown pants rake by

my skinny legs.

He opens the front door.

Dark, hot

Miami air

swooshes in,

swallowing up

our air-conditioning.



I yank my hands free

and stumble to the hall window.

The metal screen

presses into my lips.

"Come back," I whisper.

My breath fogs

against the closed jalousie.

The slanted red car lights


Dale whimpers.

Mom moans.

I shut my eyes.

The Police

I bite my fist

to stop the dead feeling

numbing me.

I snap open my eyes,

crawl to the phone,

and snatch it.

"We should call the police,

and they can stop Dad

and bring him back

because it's like

breaking the law

for him to leave


"It's not against the law."

Mom lunges over to me.

The phone clatters out of my hand.

She scoops it up

and smashes it

back into its cradle.

Left Out



Mommy," says Dale.

She doesn't answer.



Mommy." He tugs her shirt.

"Shhh," I hiss.




"Would you stop already!"

I shove him.

He shoves me back.

Mom rolls to her feet

and leaves us

in the empty hall.

Her bedroom door closes.


"Es?" Dale whispers.

I pat his little sharp shoulder blades.

I'm scared



"It's time to go to bed, Doozerdude."

Dale goes without a fight.

I tuck him in.

"When will Daddy come -- ," he asks.

"I don't know."

"But -- "


"But -- "

"Go to sleep, Doozerdude."

"Are we going to be okay?"


I turn off his light.

"We're going to be okay."

I don't believe it.


Dad, Mom,

Dale, and I

make four.

That's us.


Dale, and I

make three.

Are we still

a family?

Wandering Through the House

Dad's clothes are missing

from the laundry basket.

The ceramic beer mugs

Mom painted for him

are still on the shelf.

But the six-pack of beer

is gone from the fridge.

His secret stash of black licorice

behind the cornmeal

and his Popular Mechanics magazines

that were in the rack by the couch

are missing.

He left the TV.

It must have been too heavy

to haul out quick.

The new DVD player is gone.

But he left us the old VCR.

His toothbrush,

electric razor, and comb are gone.

That rubbery pick on a stick

for his gums.

Our radio,

our computer

and all the cool games,

our CDs,

every bit of music,

except Dale's little kid tapes,

are gone.

But Dad's cell phone is here.


He wouldn't want


to be able to call




The light blares

above his empty desk.

Dad's office is cleared out.

I drag my hand over

the cold metal desktop

and drop into his chair.

I spin it fast

like I'm not allowed to.

Where will he work

between sales trips?

The room zips by.

Doesn't he need our home

at least

to work from?


I lift the curtain

and look out the office window.

The whole backyard is black.

My reflection

breaks into rectangles

on the jalousies.

I lean my elbows on the tile sill.

The curtain swings back and

brushes my arm.


I leap up.

Roach egg casings are clinging

to the back of the material.

Some are hard, dark brown,

and shiny.

The eggs still inside.

Others are broken open.

Left-behind, empty, hairy shells.

My skin creeps,

and I drop the material.

It sways closed.

No way I'm touching that ick.

Mom must not know

that creepo stuff is there

just out of sight.

It's funny

the roaches stuck their eggs

in Dad's office.

Dial Tone


goes the dial tone.

I slam the phone down

like Mom did.

The Rolodex cards

stick to my fingers,

but there's no one to call

for help.

No way I'm calling Pastor Lyon.

It's just too embarrassing

to think of telling him

something this bad.

None of us

know our neighbors that well.

There's that old lady, Ms. Ruthie,

we see outside watering her flowers sometimes.

What could she ever do to help?

There's not even anyone my age

around here.

Dale knows a few of the little kids.

Mom doesn't have any relatives to call.

She's an only child,

and her folks died before Dale and I were born.

Plus, she totally stopped trying

to make friends in the neighborhood

when Don and Didi moved away.

Said it was too hard on her.

Mr. Paul is about her only friend

who comes around.

And he lives way over

in the Saga Bay Apartments.

I don't like him much.

He has creepo eyes.

I'm not

calling him.

Dad's never let us meet his family

up in Canada somewhere.

He left home at sixteen.


Can leaving home

become a habit?

Kitchen Calendar

I take a felt tip

and black out today,

Sunday, December 1st.

I scribble

edge to edge.

This day

is totally dark.

In Bed

'"Dad gave me you

the day I was born," I remind my old bear.

"You are ten whole years old now,

Dumplin' Spinner.

When I first got you,

you were bigger than me.

Dad always said he loved you

the second he saw you,

and he named you right then.

Wasn't it that way with me, too?

Must have been.

Well, I think he used to love us."

I hug Dumplin' Spinner

under my chin.


Why, God, why?

Why did he leave?

Why did he leave






What will Wally say?

My best friend

since kindergarten,

the one I tell my secrets to.

I can't tell this one

to Wally.

"My dad doesn't want me."

I can't tell him that.


If this happened to Wally,

his drama teacher

would ask him

how it feels.

Wally would ask me

how Dad's leaving feels.

It feels like garbage,

rotten stinking garbage,

is piled on top of me,

and I can't breathe a speck

because the pile

is pressing on my chest,

making me feel like

I'm garbage too.

Freaking scared, completely mad, totally sad.

That's how it feels.

My Whole Name


Mom comes out of her room.

She checks on Dale.

Then she comes

to check on me.

"Estele," she says.

"Oh, Estele Leann." She sits

on the edge of my bed.

Her voice says

she's sorry

for leaving us


wondering what's next.

That's what she means

when she says my whole name.

Mom is like that.

You have to look around her words

to hear her.

Dad just says it straight.

Like tonight:

"I'm leaving."

"Oh, sweetheart."

Mom's hand

brushes my cheek,

and I smell

garlic on her fingertips

from dinner.

When everything seemed normal.

"Mom -- "


She tucks me tight and whispers,

"We'll be okay."

I believe it more

when she says it.

A little.

"I. L. Y." She turns off the light.

"I. L. Y.," I say.

I love you,



She paces through the house.

Step, step, sniffle.

Step, step, sob.

Will she

step, step

away from me,


Thinking Ahead

The air conditioner hum

stops in the middle of the night.

I get up.

Mom's in front of the control panel.

"I'm not sure we'll be able to afford

cool air now," she says.

I nod.

"We have to think about what to do next."

I nod.

"I won't be able to get a job

until after the baby comes

because of my weak back."

I nod.

"We have to go back to bed, Estele."

She shuffles straight to her room.

I go to mine

and bang on the window crank

with the palm of my hand.

Finally, the jalousies creak open.

Humid air seeps in.

I lie down on my bed,

rub my sore hand,

and start to sweat

like rotting garbage.


I dress

and drag myself down the hallway.

My hand brushes

along the wall

to Dad's office door.


I press my ear

up against the wood.



I peek in.


He's really not here.


I stop outside the kitchen and listen.

"Mommy, will you leave us too?" Dale asks.

A spoon clatters.

"Oh, Dale-o," Mom answers. "Never."

"But are you sure?" he says.

"Very sure," says Mom.



"Your breath stinks," I tell Dale.

"Go brush your teeth, Doozerdude."

"Make me," he says

and bumps me,

reaching for the cereal.

"I haven't even eaten yet."

"Go brush your teeth, Dale," says Mom.

So he does


he glares at me.

Mom gets up

and scrubs last night's dirty dishes.

I get everything out of the fridge

and make a turkey sandwich

with our Thanksgiving leftovers.

Everything seemed perfect

last Thursday.

Each of us

at the table

saying what

we were thankful for:

Mom -- the baby inside her;

Dale -- the green jiggly salad;

Me -- the days off from school;

Dad -- each of us.

Yeah, right.


Where is Dad?

Where's he staying?

Who's going to cook for him

or make his lunches?

Because it's my job

to make his lunch

and put it in the fridge

so it's ready

if he makes a sales trip

or eats at home.

And I always put in fifteen peanuts,

because that's the exact number

he likes each day.

I hate them

because sometimes I don't see

that bitter reddish papery stuff

around the nut,

and it spoils the whole taste.

Getting a good one

isn't worth risking that other stuff.

So where is Dad?

What am I supposed to do

with this pile

of icko peanuts?


Every cereal wheat square

gets stuck in my throat.

Dry, poky sticks

pile on top of each other.


I gulp some orange juice.


burns through


my stomach.


Dale drinks the milk

out of his cereal bowl,

then licks the cinnamon sugar

off his plate.

Mom doesn't even notice.

I give him a grossed-out look

and try to kick him

under the table.

I miss.

He licks it again.

A Second

Mom's working on a list.

Crossing stuff off.

Adding more.

Her forehead

crinkles tighter

and tighter.

"We're going to be okay, Mom."

She looks up quick.

There's a second of fear

before she hides it.

"You're right, Estele."

She pats my arm.

I grab hold of her hand

and squeeze it

until she smiles.

Off to School

Mom lowers herself

into the car.

Dale jumps into

the shady front seat.

"Get in, Estele," Mom says.

I knock Doozerdude's head.

"Quit it," he whines.

"Come on, Estele," says Mom.

I climb into the back.

The red vinyl burns off

the back side of my legs.

I suck in baked air.

Mom pulls away from the house.

We are off to school.

Like normal.

Copyright 2005 by Lorie Ann Grover


Excerpted from Hold Me Tight by Lorie Ann Grover Copyright © 2005 by Lorie Ann Grover.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Lorie Ann Grover attended the University of Miami. After school she lived with her husband, David, in South Korea, where she spent most of her time painting and writing poetry. The Grovers have two daughters, Emily and Ellen, and live in Sumner, Washington.
The author of Loose Threads, Lorie Ann was inspired to write On Pointe by her own experiences as a teenage member of the Miami Ballet Company.

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4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
WORST book eeeeeeeevvvvvvvvvvveeeeeeeeeerrrrrrrrrrrr makes no sense dont sugest it. Doesnt eran a star):):):
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the first book i have read in poem format. It was amzing. This book is really unpredictable and there is so much goin on and so much to question. I really enjoyed this book considering i read it in 3 hours!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was amazing! It had me not wanting to put it down. All young teenage girls should read it! You will learn a good lesson from it.