A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
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.
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
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.
Violence & Scariness
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.
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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.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.