Thursday, February 28, 2013

Hold Fast

I was such a fan of Terry Deary's Horrible Histories that I bought a box of Frosties on my trip to England so I could have the CD of The Rotten Romans. My children can still sing the songs. Notice I said WAS. Rita at Screwy Decimal posted about his anti-library rant that claims that libraries are a waste of money and no longer relevant.

He is free to say whatever he wants. I am free to never buy his books again. He doesn't want to support libraries monetarily; I choose not to support HIM monetarily. Consider doing the same. The smoke you see out of your window is pouring from my ears. So onto happier thoughts....

Hold FastBalliet, Blue. Hold Fast.
1 March 2013, Scholastic Press
ARC received from Young Adult Books Central and reviewed there.

Early Pearl's parents Dash and Summer, are having a hard time of it-- Early was born when they were still in high school, they don't have Early's grandparents around to help, and Dash, the father, works hard at the Chicago Public library to make ends meet. The family lives in a small but cozy apartment, reading lots of books and playing together. One day, Dash is apparently hit by a truck and disappears. Summer knows that Dash isn't the kind of father to run off on his family, but all of the police and social workers look at the family's socioeconomic status and decide that he is. Things go from bad to worse without Dash's income, and after the family's apartment is trashed by masked robbers looking for something in the family's book, the Pearls end up in a homeless shelter. Early is especially upset by this (her brother Jubilation is too young to understand their plight fully) and is determined to find out what has happened to her father so the family can get back to their dream of owning their own home. She spends time at the library where her father worked, interviewing those who knew him and trying to figure out why he was selling books out of their apartment, and finds her father's former teacher, Mr. Waive, who has fallen on hard times himself but does all he can to assist Early. How are the books tied in to her father's disappearance? What does the largest diamond heist have to do with the masked robbers? Will Dash return to the family before things become even more dire?
Strengths: A strong sense of place, as well as excellent details about what it is like to be homeless, add a lot to this mystery. Lyrical language and the use of Langston Hughes' poetry will make this one teachers love to use as a class read aloud. The social aspects of Early's homelessness and her desire to help other families in her situation is a good touch as well. I found this a more intriguing read than Chasing Vermeer and the books in that series.
Weaknesses: A bit unsure about the student appeal, although the library helper to whom I gave it adored it.  The Danger Box is one that I can't get off the shelves, and even the Chasing Vermeer series is getting a bit dusty.

My new theory is that lyrical language sometimes goes over better in 4th and 5th grade. Students can read and appreciate the language, but aren't as busy as they are in 7th and 8th grade. Students become a bit impatient in middle school, maybe because they have so much homework, sports, and activities with friends, and this makes them want more action and straight forward language. This is a new thought that I'm rolling around in my brain-- any opinions?


  1. Your theory seems like a valid one to me. I would add that possibly 4th-5th graders don't always love it as much as they claim but will read it and say they do because most of them still desperately want to impress the adults in their lives. The adults say those books are good so the kids agree. 7th-8th graders care way less about that. I teach both ends of that spectrum and this has been my personal experience. The younger ones never want to say anything bad about a book I've required. The older ones have no such trouble. (Which I actually prefer since I want to know their honest thoughts.)

  2. what is with that Terry Deary? So many inappropriate ords come to mind...

    I think your theory on elem vs. MS seems pretty accurate. They're less willing to read books just for the beauty of the language unless they also have serious action.

  3. Anonymous1:46 AM EDT

    Wonderful article! That is the type of information that are meant
    to be shared across the web. Disgrace on Google for no longer positioning this post higher!
    Come on over and visit my web site . Thank you =)

    My weblog: silver autism bracelet