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Book Review

Publisher's Note:

From NYT bestselling author Blue Balliett, the story of a girl who falls into Chicago's shelter system, and from there must solve the mystery of her father's strange disappearance. Where is Early's father? He's not the kind of father who would disappear. But he's gone . . . and he's left a whole lot of trouble behind. As danger closes in, Early, her mom, and her brother have to flee their apartment. With nowhere else to go, they are forced to move into a city shelter. Once there, Early starts asking questions and looking for answers. Because her father hasn't disappeared without a trace. There are patterns and rhythms to what's happened, and Early might be the only one who can use them to track him down and make her way out of a very tough place. With her signature, singular love of language and sense of mystery, Blue Balliett weaves a story that takes readers from the cold, snowy Chicago streets to the darkest corner of the public library, on an unforgettable hunt for deep tr…

Hold Fast

by Blue Balliett

Overall Book Review:

In Hold Fast, Blue Balliet tries to shine a light on the plight of the homeless.  This is accomplished with a fluid finesse that showcases Balliet’s own love for words and language.  Even the one-word chapter headings are chosen to capture the mood of the story. Woven into Early Pearl’s search for her missing father is an exposure to the poetry of Langston Hughes and the power of words and rhythm.  The beginning of the book feels a bit slow, but this is a book focused more on enjoying the journey than racing toward a resolution.  However, there is still a significant element of adventure and mystery that keeps the story moving and the reader interested.  Balliet also does a smooth job of exposing the readers to the hard and cold realities of the homeless and life at a shelter, balanced by a perspective of a young girl sure of the love of her own family.  While Early Pearl is exposed to some very difficult situations, she “holds fast” to the love of her family, her father’s love of words, and the power of hope and dreams.

This book was sent to Compass Book Ratings for review by Scholastic

Content Analysis:


Violence/Gore:  A character is kidnapped; a character is pushed down and hits her head; a man scuffles with a police officer; brief mention of parents physically abusing children in various ways.

Sex/Nudity: None

Mature Subject Matter:

Kidnapping, Home Invasion/Burglary, Harshness of Homeless life, Depression, Poverty, Suffering of children, description of a fatal house fire, Crime rings, Bullying, Child Abuse.

Alcohol / Drug Use:

Brief description of drunk teens at a police station; a group of smokers.  A police raid at a shelter for drugs results in the arrest of a mother of two young children.

Overall Book Rating

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About the Reviewer

My favorite activity is cuddling up in a blanket with a good book, especially in the wintertime in front of a fire with a mug of hot chocolate!