cover image Hold Fast

Hold Fast

Blue Balliett. Scholastic Press, $17.99 (288p) ISBN 978-0-545-29988-6

The Pearl family doesn’t have much beside a shelf of books and a tight-knit bond between parents Dash and Summer and kids Early, 11, and her younger brother, Jubilation. When Dash disappears after taking a second job that involves transferring used books, the family’s apartment is violently ransacked, and the remaining Pearls must move to a homeless shelter. The third-person narrative mostly focuses on Early, but Balliett (The Danger Box) occasionally strays to an adult sensibility—to marvel at the architecture of a Chicago library branch (“an elegant conversation between stone and glass”) or to convey the hardships homeless kids face at school (“Most struggled at their grade level, having moved a bunch of times”). Early is sure that the key to unraveling her father’s disappearance lies in the one book he kept from his job, The First Book of Rhythms by Langston Hughes, and though she does some sleuthing, the mystery is largely explained in conventional exposition by adults. Still, this novel abounds in heart, shining a spotlight on the gritty truths about homelessness. Ages 8–12. Agent: Doe Coover, Doe Coover Agency. (Mar.)