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Hold Fast by Blue Balliett

The mystery begins with a bizarre accident on a deserted, wintery street in Chicago. Now stir in an old Langston Hughes book on rhythms, the Chicago Public Library's huge downtown building, a family of four that find themselves in the midst of a spiraling nightmare, and the 2003 Antwerp Diamond Heist, the biggest in history.

You will meet Dash, Sum, Early and Jubie… and many others living in a large city shelter. As dreams chase reality in a fearless yet sparkly search, 11-year-old Early Pearl will take you on a ride not easily forgotten.

Hold Fast by Blue Balliett at 57th Street Books Hold Fast by Blue Balliett at Amazon.com Hold Fast by Blue Balliett at Barnes and Noble Hold Fast by Blue Balliett at IndieBound

EXCERPT: Ice Listen to an audio excerpt of Hold Fast.

It was the bitterest, meanest, darkest, coldest winter in anyone's memory, even in one of the forgotten neighborhoods of Chicago. Light and warmth seemed gone for good; mountains of grey snow and sheets of ice destroyed the geometry of sidewalk and street.

On this particular January afternoon, gusts battered the city and a temperature of zero nipped at flesh and stone alike. Suddenly: a squeal of brakes, a shout, and a thud; wheels spinning through the dusk; a blue bicycle crushed beneath a truck; a shopping bag spewing green peas, tomatoes, and oranges across snow.

At 4:44, the police received a call. When a squad car arrived at the scene minutes later, the street was deserted. There were no witnesses to be found. No one could remember seeing the young man that afternoon… He had vanished three blocks from home.

Packed ice allowed no footprints. Nor was there blood.

Gone. Four miserable letters. What does the word mean? Does 4:44, a measurement made of fours but shown by three, mean a family of four is still four, even when one is gone? Can a soul hide in a three that belongs to four?

I’m giving you a peek into my brain.  This is one of my writing notebooks. I'm playing with a pattern I noticed on the digital clock in our kitchen. Once this odd pattern became a part of Hold Fast, it popped up all the time in real life.  I’d walk past a clock and see that it was 1:11 or 3:33… Hmm.

Behind the Scenes:
Hold Fast took four years to research and write. It began with a shocking truth I ran across in the news:  thousands of families in Chicago – and well over a million across the U.S. – have been losing their homes each year, and the numbers seem to be rising.  

I couldn’t stop thinking about the kids. What does it feel like to go to school each day knowing that you can’t go home? What is it like to know you no longer have a front door to call your own? I began spending time in Chicago’s shelters, and met some wonderful kids who I’ll never forget. And then I wrote Hold Fast. 

One of my characters, eleven year-old Early Pearl, comes up with a solution to homelessness. I hope, hope, hope that one day her dream will come true.

Click here to see where some of the action takes place and what went into the making of Hold Fast

 Click here for Hold Fast book trailers made by Sixth Graders in Chicago

There are many excellent organizations working to help homeless families in Chicago. Those I know best are:

In every community across the U. S., there are groups and/or individuals working to support those families who are facing everyday life without a home. Help is always both welcome and needed, and can come in many forms and from all ages.