Hold Fast
by Balliett, Blue

When Early's father disappears, she, her mother, and her brother are forced to flee their Chicago apartment and join the ranks of the homeless-and it is up to Early to hold her family together and solve the mystery surrounding her father.

Blue Balliett is the author of several bestselling, acclaimed mystery novels, including Chasing Vermeer (a Book Sense Book of the Year and an Edgar Award winner), The Wright 3, The Calder Game, and The Danger Box. She writes in the laundry room of her home in Chicago, Illinois, and you can find her online at www.blueballiettbooks.com.

*Starred Review* In a one-room apartment on Chicago's South Side lives the Pearl family: Dash, Summer, 11-year-old Early, and little Jubie. Do they have a lot? Well, yes, they have Dash's love of words, their devotion to each other, and their dream: to have a home. Trying to help that dream along, Dash, a page at the Chicago Public Library, makes extra money inventorying a private collection of old books. One ice-cold day, Dash disappears, and the family must move to a shelter after an odd robbery sees their possessions stolen and their apartment destroyed. The story has some problems, especially when it comes to the mystery. The perpetrators are cartoonish, and Early's decision to be home schooled just when she needs to be free to find clues is awfully convenient. On another front, the national attention for a homeless program Early's devised might have fit better in a sequel. But what's wonderful about this book, overshadowing the plot flaws, is the way Balliett so thoroughly gets inside the mind of a child accustomed to love and protection-and who now sees her life slipping away. Sadness and stoicism mingle freely in ways that will pierce all readers. Early is a clever heroine, and her smarts are enhanced by the poetry of Langston Hughes, which ripples beautifully through the story and infuses it with hope. One to ponder, this has a beat all its own. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: A new book by Blue Balliett, author of Chasing Vermeer (2004), is always an awaited event, and this title will be no exception. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Eleven-year-old Early Pearl holds fast to her family's dream of a home of their own even after her father disappears, their apartment is ransacked, and she and her brother and mother are forced to move to a shelter. Taking her title from a Langston Hughes poem, the author of Chasing Vermeer (2004) weaves a moving story of homelessness, family, and the love of words and books. This mystery opens promisingly with a wintertime bike accident, a man's disappearance and a series of numerical coincidences. A warm family circle of four is broken; there's a violent burglary; the three remaining flee to Helping Hand. Early and her 4-year-old brother, Jubilation, play at being spies, but the fifth grader does real detective work, researching in the Chicago Public Library, where her father worked, and enlisting the help of some sympathetic adults. Gradually she, and readers, come to realize that her dad has been caught up in an international crime operation and that all of them are in danger. Early's family reads; her father is such an admirer of Langston Hughes that the poet's The First Book of Rhythms is a family treasure and plays a vital role in the solution of this intricate tale. Chapters are identified by word definitions (possible clues) and line patterns reminiscent of those in Hughes' book. Enthralling and satisfying. (Mystery. 9-13) Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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