Early Pearl comes from a word-loving family. She and her brother, Jubie, love to read and play with words, thanks to their father, Dash, a library page wanting nothing more than to keep his family safe and work his way to library school. Though the family must all squeeze into a one-room apartment, they're comfortable and love spending their time together, so really, it's not too bad being poor.
When Dash decides to take on a side job to earn extra money (and the money really starts rolling in), Early's mom, Summer, is skeptical. Early knows that Dash just wants to get them out of the apartment as fast as he can, but when his side job causes him to disappear without a trace, their home to be ransacked by scary men, and the police to start investigating Dash for a crime, Early has to use her power with words to help get her family out of a city shelter and back home, altogether.
Hold Fast was so much more than a mystery tracked by a smart, young girl. Blue Balliett takes on the issue of homelessness and the concept of what "home" really means -- or should mean. The language used to described the process of becoming homeless and trying to get out of a shelter was incredibly moving at times, and I think expands upon a subject too often overlooked in children's literature. According to Balliett, thousands of children spend time in Chicago's homeless shelters each year and these children obviously need books to read that makes them feel as if they aren't alone.
The use of Langston Hughes poems throughout the text was beautifully done and I found myself frantically looking up our closest homeless shelter to see what type of volunteer work I could possibly do with a toddler. This is a book of action and it made ME want to do something about this epidemic of homelessness. Well done, Balliett.
Teachers, read this to your classes! Sometimes, I feel Balliett's books are well-loved by adults, but kids overlook them on the shelves. At least, in my experience. Make sure that doesn't happen with this one!
Thank you to Scholastic for the review copy.