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Hold Fast

Review

Hold Fast

The Pearl family doesn't have a lot of money but they are together, and they are happy. Early Pearl is 11 and, while she and her parents enjoy admiring a cozy house in their Chicago suburb neighborhood and wishing it was theirs, her own tiny one-room apartment home is filled with library books, colorful pillows and tons of laughter and love. Early's father, Dash, works as a library page where he sorts, shelves and processes books. His dream is to someday attain a library science degree. In the meantime, he constantly and joyfully presents his children with words, calling them "treasures of inestimable value."

"HOLD FAST offers pure enjoyment to readers of mysteries, fans of family stories, people concerned about social issues and/or to anyone who loves getting lost in an intriguing, nuanced page-turner"

Dash and Early both delight in capturing intriguing words and ideas by jotting them down in notebooks. In the cozy cocoon of family love and quests for knowledge, the four Pearls have a big plan. When little Jubilation ("Jubie") is old enough to attend kindergarten, mom Summer will be able to get a job. Then Dash will find a scholarship and borrow money in order to get that library science degree. After Dash becomes a full-fledged librarian, Summer will attend college. Someday their combined hard work will pay off and they will have saved enough money to buy a house. This family plan, filled with hope for the future, is one of the Pearls' most cherished belongings; one they hold close to their hearts. Then, something wonderful happens: Dash is offered part-time work. Al, a fellow library page, recommends him to work for an international bookseller who needs people to sort, process and transport old books from donated estates. Dash can do this on his own time, in his home after he gets home from his library job. Of course, he is delighted to make extra money to save toward the family dream. Two boxes of books begin arriving at the Pearl apartment each week. Dash carefully makes lists of the books, slips the list in each box, and gives the boxes to Al, who delivers them to a secret spot.

In the boxes of old books, Dash discovers a treasure. It is THE FIRST BOOK OF RHYTHMS by his favorite poet, Langston Hughes. The book is no longer in print, which means it is rare. Dash pays for the book and puts it on a special shelf in the Pearl family's apartment.

Next, the unthinkable happens. Dash is biking home from work when brakes squeal. His bike is crushed, the grocery bag he carries spilt across the snow. Early's father vanishes, leaving his notebook inscribed with a puzzling series of numbers. Early, Summer and Jubie are split wide open with grief for their missing father and husband. When Summer worries about money, Early must divulge a secret stash she once spied Dash hiding...but the hidden cash leads to ever-worsening troubles for the sorrowful Pearl family members. It isn't long before they lose nearly everything they ever owned, eventually becoming homeless. What was Dash involved in? Early is determined to solve the mystery and find her father.

HOLD FAST offers pure enjoyment to readers of mysteries, fans of family stories, people concerned about social issues and/or to anyone who loves getting lost in an intriguing, nuanced page-turner. Author Blue Balliett gives readers a clever set-up, with chapter headings of words beginning with "C" --- such as Click, Crash, Cling --- bookmarked with first and last chapter titled "Ice." Even better, she introduces us to wonderfully three-dimensional and sympathetic characters in both the Pearls and their fellow shelter residents. You just can't help but root for Early, as she endeavors to heal her family and also brainstorms solutions for people who find themselves homeless.

Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon on March 5, 2013

Hold Fast
by Blue Balliett

  • Publication Date: March 1, 2013
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Press
  • ISBN-10: 0545299888
  • ISBN-13: 9780545299886