Tag Archives: figurative language

Summer Reading: Hold Fast


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! 😀

Summer Reading: Liesl and Po


Liesl and Po by Lauren Oliver.  Illustrated by Kei Acedera. Fantasy.

Lonely, grieving and locked in an attic, Liesl is befriended by a ghost, Po and its pet, Bundle.  An accidental mix-up by an alchemist’s apprentice, Will, soon has all of them entwined in a dangerous adventure as Liesl endeavors to return her father’s mortal remains to his final resting place.

Themes/Content: Friendship, family, death, grief, alchemy, ghosts, magic, drawing, apprentices, orphans, stepmothers, figurative language, imagery.

Recommended for: Grade 5 and up; fantasy lovers, read aloud,

My Two Cents:  I enjoyed this book so much, that I am having a hard time writing about it.  I just won’t be able to do justice to Oliver’s clever and magical writing.  I’d get that little “butterfly in the stomach”  feeling as a read certain passages and marveled at how she chose her words.  As I was reading I started taking pictures of the text with my phone so that I could remember some of my favorite passages.


Oliver, Lauren. Liesl & Po. New York: Harper, 2011. 142. Print.

You’ll have such empathy for the protagonists Liesl, Po, Bundle and Will, but my heart was stolen by Mo, the Lady Premiere’s guard.

Also worth mentioning… read the author’s note at the end of the book.  I always do, but this one was truly touching and gave me even more appreciation for the story.

Similar Book from EHUE Library:

  • Auxier, Jonathan. Peter Nimble and his fantastic eyes : a story. New York: Amulet Books, 2011. Print.
  • Barrie, J M. Peter Pan. New York: Scholastic, 2002. Print.
  • Gaiman, Neil. The graveyard book. New York: HarperCollins, 2008. Print.
  • Nimmo, Jenny. Midnight for Charlie Bone. New York: Orchard Books, 2003. Print.

Favorite Quote: “This was the other problem with the living ones: They were separate, always separate.  They couldn’t truly merge.  They did not know how to be anyone other than themselves, and even that they did not know how to be sometimes.” (Oliver, Lauren. Liesl & Po. New York: Harper, 2011. 92. Print.)

The Final Word(s): Read it immediately! 😀