Hold Fast

Hold FastBlue Balliett

What is the dream you keep in your heart? What is the rhythm that makes your heart sing?

It may not be fancy, but it certainly feels just right.  Early Pearl is part of a family of four.  There’s Dashel her dad, Summer, her mom and Jubilation (Jubie for short), her younger brother.  Together they are Dashsumearlyjubie, a celebration of rhythm and caretakers of words.  In the Pearl family words are “for choosing, admiring, keeping, giving.  They are treasures of inestimable value.”  The family has a notebook for interesting words – recorded by origin and definition and another for important quotes worth remembering.

Together the four Pearls fit snuggly into their Woodlawn apartment.  They dream one day of having a house – a dream similar to those kept by Langston Hughes.   Their ordinary, yet joyful life skids and crashes to a stop when Dash’s bike is found crumpled in the street, groceries strewn across the snowy sidewalk, but no man.  He has disappeared – but how and why.  Is he gone?  Did he just decide to leave?

Without Dash there is no rhythm in their lives.  They are four Pearls.  How can they become three?  And as if losing Dash isn’t enough, thugs come into their home taking everything of value and smashing all they leave.  They even take the family books of words and quotes.  Nothing is right.  There is no beat.  The Pearls can’t seem to find their rhythm.  As they are plunged into the homeless shelter system of Chicago they find it harder and harder to hold onto their dreams.  Nothing works – in fact it seems as though the rules are set up to keep the Pearls from getting the help they need to make changes in their lives – to keep dreams alive. “’I’m sorry, baby,’ Summer says to Early after a few days in the shelter.  ‘It’ll feel refreshing to get to school tomorrow, and if you can just keep an eye on Jubie for a few more hours, that’ll be the best help ever.’  Early nodded numbly.  She thought of all the fun things they’d had at home – Play-Doh, paints and crayons, paper, toys…and, of course books.  They’d gone on trips to the local library, sometimes twice a week.  Made cookies with Sum.  Had blocks and Legos to build with.  It had all felt normal then, but so much choice now seemed a luxury.”

While reading this book I also reread the collections of Langston Hughes poems – Dream Keepers and other poems and Love to Langston.  I started thinking more about words and rhythms.  I paused to consider all we have that goes unnoticed.  People are amazingly strong – but how much easier our lives would be if we all remembered kindness.  The mystery of this book may not be as compelling as those in Blue Balliett’s other books but I loved the flow of the story from the “click” through the “crash, cling and clutch” and on to the “chase, catch and cast.”  What dream do you hold on to?  How do you honor the dreams of those around you?