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Hold Fast



Touching story of resourceful girl solving a family mystery.

What parents need to know

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

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.

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Drinking, drugs, & smoking
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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. 

Parents say

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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.

Families can talk 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

Author:Blue Balliett
Topics:Adventures, Brothers and sisters, Great girl role models, Misfits and underdogs
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Scholastic Press
Publication date:March 1, 2013
Number of pages:288
Publisher's recommended age(s):8 - 12
Available on:Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, Kindle

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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, Jubie, Summer, and Dash Pearl have a very close knit family and love each other very much. At the beginning of the book there are very positive messages and role models, but are displayed in an interesting and entertaining way. But at the middle of the book, things start getting tough. The dad disappears and the Pearl family moves to a place for homeless people after the father is suspected of being involved In criminal activity and a group of thugs rob their home. This is a depressing part of the book, where they met many homeless people that are very disadvantaged but also meet some kind ones along the way. I recommend this for ages 11-12 and up because of A., the depression and more grown-up parts of the book and B., the enthralling confusion of the book, similar to other books by Blue Balliet, if you have ever read one. In short, this is a very good book but only for mature readers and older kids.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Kid, 10 years old April 28, 2014

A good book

I think this book is pretty good for kids that are in 5th grade. This book subject should be compassion.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages