Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Those words from "Dreams," a Langston Hughes poem, infuse Blue Balliett's newest novel.
At the start of the book, Balliett notes that by the end of the 2012 school year an estimated 30,000 Chicago children were homeless. Not including the surrounding suburbs, this number is thought to be low.
But don't despair that Balliett has written a soulless, policy-oriented novel laden with numbers. She understands that readers need to care, and she creates twisty-turny-loopy plots that engage the mind, and characters who speak to the heart.
In several of her previous novels, Balliett — who won the Chicago Tribune Young Adult Literary Prize in 2004 — has written books that deal with the disappearance of valuable objects, such as a Vermeer painting. In "Hold Fast," she offers another sort of mystery on Chicago's South Side during the "bitterest, meanest, darkest, coldest winter in anyone's memory," and a heroine, 11-year-old Early Pearl, who is determined to solve the mystery of her father's disappearance.
The precocious — in a nice way — Early finds that her road leads to the stacks of the Harold Washington Library Center, which is a link to her father, a librarian who left one book behind when he disappeared: an old collected work of Hughes.
Through her passionate love of words, Balliett has brought to life a precarious world where, for too many people, a firm hold is beyond reach.
Blue Balliett will appear at Printers Row Lit Fest, June 8-9. Visit printersrowlitfest.org for more information.
'Hold Fast' By Blue Balliett
Scholastic, 288 pages, $17.99Copyright © 2015, CT Now