Slice of Life 2013

Slice of Life 2013 Day 18: Hold Fast

on March 18, 2013


I’m participating in the March Slice of Life Challenge, hosted by Stacey Shubitz and Ruth Ayres at Two Writing Teachers.

Many of the bloggers that I follow reserve Mondays for “It’s Monday What Are Your Reading?”  so I thought I would share a bit about my reading life for today’s slice.

I’m currently reading Hold Fast by Blue Balliett.


This is a beautifully written story about 11 year-old Early Pearl, and what happens to her family after her much loved father, Dash, mysteriously disappears. After a quick succession of disasters, Early and her mom, Summer (“Sum”), and younger brother, Jubie (“Jubilation”) find themselves in a homeless shelter, desperately trying to survive, while at the same time figure out what happened to Dash.

Dash is a lover of words, and works at the Chicago Public Library. This book-loving family shares his fascination and much of the story centers around words, and the magic and rhythm of words.

Dash is also a fan of Langston Hughes, hence the title of the story, and Hughes’ poetry plays a prominent role in the plot.

While I haven’t finished the book yet, I find myself completely absorbed in the life of the Pearl family and concerned for their plight. The author shines a bright light on the harsh realities of homelessness through 11-year-old Early’s eyes.

Hold Fast has made me think about and feel things I’d rather not.

Like, it wasn’t but a few years back that I had never had a student in my class that was homeless. For the past few years, though, that has no longer been the case. This year I started off with one or two homeless students, and as the year has progressed and the economy worsened, a few more have been added to that list, one just the other day.

I have always had a soft spot in my heart for my homeless students. I imagine that it is difficult for them to truly care about school when their lives are in such turmoil and they may not know where they might be sleeping that night or if anyone will be there to take care of them. Blue Baillett’s book has shown me exactly what it must be like to be a child who is forced to live in a homeless shelter.

It is heartbreaking.

For those who teach students who may be homeless and living in a shelter, this book should be required reading. Students who live under these conditions need our love and compassion more than anything else. Most of us wouldn’t last a day (or at least I know I wouldn’t) living under the conditions so many children and families are forced to endure in towns all over our country today.

Hold Fast is a book that is going to stay with me for a long time.


by Langston Hughes

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.


6 responses to “Slice of Life 2013 Day 18: Hold Fast

  1. My blogging partner just wrote about this book also, and I’m going to order it. Your post is beautifully written and a strong reminder of how important it is to know what is going on for the children we teach–sometimes so much more than we know. Thank you.

  2. Oh, I’m excited to read this one. I just picked it up from my local library. Might just have to start it tonight. Thanks for sharing!

  3. I appreciate book reviews for youth fiction, which I often enjoy more than adult fiction. Thank you for this recommend. I like when another genre like poetry is entwined in the story. I think this one sounds like a keeper!

  4. What a powerful post, Gail. I’ve read some of Blue Balliett’s work and I’ll definitely add ‘Hold Fast’ to my TBR list, given this review. I am sad to think of your homeless students. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever taught a child who was homeless.

    It must be so incredibly hard for those children and it must break their teachers’ hearts.

  5. I got this book from one of my many Amazon orders last week. I’m planning on reading it during spring break..(only 3 days away!). I can’t wait to read it. I’ve heard so many good things about it.

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