Summer Reading: Hold Fast

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Hold Fast by Blue Balliett.  (@BlueBalliett) Realistic Fiction/Mystery

Early Pearl and her family dream of one day owning a home of their own.  Their plans are crimped however, when her father mysteriously disappears, and her apartment is ransacked and robbed.  She, her mother, Sum, and brother, Jubie, have no choice but to seek refuge at a homeless shelter.

Themes/Content: Family, home, homelessness, Langston Hughes, poetry, onomatopoeia, figurative language, etymology, vocabulary, quotes, libraries, theft, shelters, rhythm, writing, writer’s craft, text features

Recommended for: Grades 5 and up.  Learning about the plight of the homeless, learning about figurative language, teaching poetry, students who love a good mystery, discussing words and word origins, students who like books with some drama, read aloud

My Two Cents:  Donalyn Miller (@donalynbooks) writes, “How would children see reading differently if we taught language arts as an art appreciation class?”  Blue Balliett has created a masterful work of art filled with the commitment and courage, repetition and rhythm.  From the very first pages I wanted the Pearl family to find their dream.  They are such strong and loving family, with intelligent and compassionate parents who are providing the best for their children even though they can afford very few “material things.” They have a plan, and they hold each other up as they work toward putting that plan into action.  When Dash disappears and their home is robbed the family is shocked and devastated.  This family holds fast to each other as they persevere and face the toughest challenges they could imagine.

Balliett deftly crafts this story.  She draws on the poetry and rhythms of Langston Hughes in several ways.  Hughes writing provides the Pearls their smooth soulful voices.  Every conversation is poetry.  Hughes’ poetry and writing also play a significant role in the mystery of Dash’s disappearance. Balliett does a brilliant job of weaving the story with word play and figurative language.  Words are tossed and twisted and taken apart.  You’ll have blast finding those gems.

This book would make a great dramatic read aloud.

Similar/Paired books from EHUE Library:

  • Bauer, Joan. Almost home. New York: Viking, 2012. Print.
  • Bunting, Eve. Fly away home. New York: Clarion Books, 1991. Print.
  • Burleigh, Robert. Langston’s train ride. New York: Orchard Books, 2004. Print.
  • Carlson, Natalie S. The family under the bridge. New York: Harper/Trophy, 1958. Print.
  • Clements, Andrew. Room one : a mystery or two. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2006. Print.
  • Cooper, Floyd. Coming home : from the life of Langston Hughes. New York: Putnam & Grosset, 1998. Print.
  • DiCamillo, Kate. Great joy. Cambridge, Mass.: Candlewick Press, 2007. Print.
  • Hughes, Langston. The dream keeper and other poems : including seven additional poems. New York: Knopf, 1994. Print.
  • Langston Hughes. New York: Sterling Pub., 2006. Print.
  • Lewis, Barbara A. The kid’s guide to service projects : over 500 service ideas for young people who want to make a difference. Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirit Pub., 2009. Print.
  • O’Connor, Barbara. How to steal a dog : a novel. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007. Print.
  • Perdomo, Willie. Visiting Langston. New York: H. Holt, 2002. Print.
  • Perkovich, Olugbemisola R. 8th grade superzero. New York: Arthur A. Levine Books, 2010. Print.

Favorite Quote: “Reading is a tool no one can take away.  A million bad things may happen in life and it’ll still be with you, like a flashlight that never needs a battery.  Reading can offer a crack of light on the blackest of nights.”  (Balliett, Blue. Hold fast. New York: Scholastic Press, 2013. 166. Print.)

The Final Word(s): Wow-ow! Read it! 😀

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