Sunday, February 3, 2013

A Review of Hold Fast by Blue Balliett

Hold Fast by Blue Balliett

Ages 8 and up
288 pages
Publication date: March 1, 2013
by Scholastic Press

Review copy provided by

I rate this book 5 out of 5 stars!

Blue Balliet has written so many wonderful books (click here for a list).  One of my favorites is Chasing Vermeer.  I was very excited to read Hold Fast and it lived up to all my expectations. 

Goodreads summary
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 to flee their apartment. With nowhere else to go, they are forced to move into a city shelter. Once there, Early starts asking questions and looking for answers. Because her father hasn't disappeared without a trace. There are patterns and rhythms to what's happened, and Early might be the only one who can use them to track him down and make her way out of a very tough place.

What I think
Early's was a close knit family with attentive, nurturing parents living in a tiny apartment in Chicago. Reading was important to them and Early's father read with the children constantly.  He even worked at the public library.  The family dreamed of owning a comfortable home in a nice neighborhood.  To earn extra money, her father started a side job delivering old books.  Little did he know, this job would land him in serious trouble.

After her father disappears and strange men break into their apartment, Early, her mother and younger brother flee to safety in a city shelter. They are forced to live in a large room with many other families.  Early has to change schools where she is shunned for being a "shelter kid".  To make matters worse, Early's mom has fallen into a depression and barely gets out of bed.  As many suggest, Early never believes her father just left them. She is determined to put her family back together so she starts to do her own investigating to find out more about her father's disappearance.  Unexpectedly, the trail leads back to the public library.  

The characters in this book are well developed and believable.  Early is persistent, clever and faithful. The story line is interesting as Blue Balliett takes you on twists and turns leading to the truth about what happened to Early's father.      

One of the most valuable elements of this book is the description of the family's life in the shelter.  As someone who, fortunately, has never been without a home, I am ashamed to say that I had never given much thought to what shelter life might really be like.  Blue Balliett does a wonderful job describing how difficult the day to day events of someone who is homeless can be.  The waiting in line for the telephone for hours, sleeping in close quarters in an uncomfortable bed and the boredom from the lack of stimulating activities are all described in detail as the family goes through this tragic experience.  Not to mention the shame, guilt, embarrassment, hopelessness and anger they all feel about losing their previous life.  

I won't reveal the ending here. Although the publishers have specified this book for ages 8 and up, it has content that is  somewhat more complicated than I expected.  I would recommend it to 4th graders and up in order for them to enjoy and fully appreciate the story.  Students who like a bit of mystery, a strong underdog and a story of persistence will enjoy this book.

Hold Fast would also make a good class read aloud for grades 3-6. 
Themes include: mystery, persistence, family, homelessness and differences. 

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