A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that in Hold Fast, by Blue Balliett, author of Chasing Vermeer, 11-year-old Early enjoys her happy and loving family, although they don't have much to call their own. But their happiness is shattered when Early's dad disappears and thugs break into their apartment, destroying everything the family owns and leaving them family homeless. The thugs imply that Early's father was involved in shady business, and the police don't believe Early's mother when she goes to them for help. Early comes up against a few untrustworthy grown-ups, but she also finds plenty of people to help her in her mission to get to the bottom of the mystery of her father's disappearance. Note: The mature subject matter of crime and homelessness makes this best for kids 10 and up.
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What's the story?
In HOLD FAST, 11-year-old Early and her family don't have much in the way of physical possessions, but they are rich in love and affection for one another. Early's parents, especially her father, pass on to her a love of books and a strong faith that situations can improve if you work hard enough. This faith and love is tested when Early's father disappears and the family must move into a homeless shelter. Despite mean kids at school, a shifty librarian, and unbelieving police officers, Early never gives up hope that she can get to the bottom of the mystery of her father's disappearance, as she uses the clues her father left behind and the words of Langston Hughes' poetry to guide her.
Is it any good?
Balliet, as always, enriches her story by tying in the works of an artist --in this case, poet Langston Hughes -- to the root of the mystery. Although the intricacies of how the mystery relates to numbers and rhythms are a little hard to follow, and some of the adult dialogue seems forced and unrealistic, Early's struggles to come to terms with the drastic changes in her life are entirely believable. Early is a wonderful, sympathetic character and readers will have the same faith in her that she has in herself, as she determinedly collects clues to help her find her father and clear his name. Chapters are broken into short, digestible sections and help make Hold Fast a quick and compelling read.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about homelessness. When Early loses her home, one of the things she misses most is her books. What would you miss most if your possesions were taken away from you?
When Early goes to school and is teased for being a "shelter kid," she decides she can get a better education on her own by going to the library and doing research to find her dad. Do you think she made the right decision?
Although Early does use the computer when she goes to the library, she generally does not have much access to technology, yet she still manages to stay busy and even entertain some of the other children at the homeless shelter. How would you stay busy if you were in that situation?
- Author: Blue Balliett
- Genre: Mystery
- Topics: Adventures, Brothers and sisters, Great girl role models, Misfits and underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Scholastic Press
- Publication date: March 1, 2013
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 288
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, Kindle
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