Saturday, March 2, 2013

Hold Fast by Blue Balliett

After reading an ARC of Hold Fast, I immediately changed my read aloud schedule, moving the book to the top of the list for sixth grade. As I post this, we are about three-quarters finished, and it has been a powerful experience for both students and teacher. This is a sample journal entry we wrote together about how words, phrases, and smaller pieces of text add meaning to the whole

Dear Mr. W,

I just started reading Hold Fast by Blue Balliett. It is opening my eyes to the issue of homelessness, something I did not know much about before reading. I can’t imagine being put into a situation like the Pearl family, with my father disappearing and then losing my home and almost everything I own. I wouldn’t know what to do.

The author has a unique way of organizing chapters or sections of the book. (I’m reading an advanced readers copy on a Kindle, so I’m not sure exactly how this will appear in the final book.) Each section is titled with one word. Most, but not all, of them begin with C. The first time the word appears it has a definition and origin. Then each word is repeated at section breaks. It’s almost like there are 5 or 6 chapters in a row with the same one word title.

It seems like the C words give clues as to what is in that section. Like Cling and Clutch refer to how the family is trying to stay together and how they hold on to their hopes. Crash is where the bad guys came and trashed their apartment after the crash when the dad, Dash, disappeared. Looking back at what has been read, you can see why words were chosen. Today I started Chase. As I read it feels like Early has decided to do something, to chase down a solution, to find her father. I hope the next part, Catch, means she finds answers.

When I started the section for the word Crimp, I guessed that something unwanted would come into the story or that some new addition to the story would make the conflict larger. That totally happened. Early went to her new school but things didn’t go well. She was treated badly because she was a “shelter kid.” Even more important, and an even bigger crimp for the Pearl family, is that the police issued a warrant for Dash’s arrest. They think he’s connected to an eight-year-old diamond heist! What? No way! Not Dash!

Finally, there are many mentions of homes. The Pearl family has an apartment at the beginning and a dream of one day owning their own home. Then they lost the apartment and live in a homeless shelter. Early notices homes that are empty and homes come up in a school writing assignment. It’s sad that a family that dreams of moving on to a better home actually moves farther away from that dream and into a homeless shelter.

Sincerely, 
Brian Sixth Grader

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