Hold Fast

Book review by
Sally Engelfried, Common Sense Media
Hold Fast Book Poster Image
Touching story of resourceful girl solving a family mystery.

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Kids say

age 10+
Based on 3 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Early and her family share a special love for books and words and particularly for the poetry of Langston Hughes. Early loves collecting new vocabulary words to write in her notebook, and readers will learn along with her the meanings of words such as "inestimable" and "onomatopoeia." Each chapter also begins with the definition and origins of the word in the chapter title. In addition, Hold Fast brings up difficult social issues such as homelessness and unemployment and how they can affect families and children.

Positive Messages

Early's family lives in a one-bedroom apartment and doesn't have a lot of money, but their home is full of love. Early's father tells them to "hold fast" to their dreams, and these words comfort Early through the extreme difficulties of losing her father and her home. As Early becomes accustomed to life in a shelter for homeless families, she works hard to stay true to her father's words and to hold fast to her optimism and her faith that everything will turn out all right. No matter how difficult her situation becomes, Early understands that her family's love is a great gift, and that there is always someone worse off than she is.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Early is smart and kind and fiercely determined to hold her family together and find her missing father. Although she faces homelessness, mean kids at school, police who don't believe her, and some grownups who won't help her, she also manages to find friends and beauty everywhere and to use her own ingenuity to solve her family's problems, even when those problems begin to overwhelm her mother.


Early's father disappears in the first few pages of Hold Fast, and shortly after that four intruders ransack the family's apartment and are rough with Early's mother. Early's father is kidnapped and violence against him is implied, but the details are not given.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

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. 

User Reviews

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  • Kids say

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Kid, 11 years old March 29, 2013

Great book, but some things you might want to know...

This is a great read, although there are a few things that you probably want to know before you read it if you are not sure. First, the positive points. Early,... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bySparky2426 November 13, 2018

Heart felt, heart touching

This book is a masterpiece that changes your perspective on life. Early, who goes through so much, finds her way through a family mystery which she solves.

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?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love mysteries

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