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.
— "Dreams" by Langston Hughes
Title: Hold Fast
Author: Blue Balliett
I rate it 4/5 stars
Inside one of apartment in Woodlawn, lived a family who dream about having their own home someday. The larger home than their old and barely-had-rooms apartment. Home which has a cat staring outside at the edge of the window. Home where four of them will always be four.
Dashel Pearl, dad who always admires words and rhythms and adores Langston's The First Book of Rhythms and works as Library Page for History and Social Science at Harold Washington. Summer Pearl, mom who always reads stories to her children when the dad's not reading for them. Early Pearl, just like her dad, loves words and rhythms and is a genius. Jubilation Pearl, still so kids, having that cannot-zipped mouth and always babbling even the high-secret-secret of their family. (Yes, I sometimes hate this little kid. So much.) Together their family name becomes dashsumearlyjubie, combination of their nicknames. Unique? Absolutely.
This was a family of important words and their important histories. Words and life and home were all rolling together in the shell that held four.
They are four, and will always be four. Until the accident happened in the third week of January. At 4:44, a man is missing, Dash. He was riding bicycle that day but several blocks from home, squad car crashed that bicycle man. But no, no blood, no footprints, and nobody's found dead in that location. Just bike, and the notebook that says 4:44. Dash is missing. Four becomes three, and rest of the dashsumearlyjubie is shaken by that tragedy.
The disappearance of Dash left them with confusion and awful things. The police doesn't really care about Pearl's family because they assume Dash involved in illegal old book's selling. Not long after Dash's gone, a group of gangster come to their apartment one night, destroy the only door and the furniture inside and bring all the books, even their family books (Quotes Books and Word Books, if I'm not mistaken), then they're gone and leaving them there in feared.
Since they don't have anything left, Sum, Early, and Jubie finally live in shelter, Helping Hand. They stick together and try to survive in that awful shelter while finding a clue what is exactly happened to Dash.
Trouble was a muddy, bad-news word, a sound that disturbed. It stuck in your mouth like gunk from the street clinging to the bottom of your shoe.
I simply love this book because it's simplicity. You can tell that this is mystery book, but not a-hard-mystery-book, just a simple mystery book about a unique family. It's also a warm book. I like how the writer starts every chapter in this book: with a word and its meaning related to what the chapter is about, like Click, Crash, Crimp, Crack, Chase, Catch, etc. Yes, it's all started with letter C except the first and the last chapter which is using the same word. I love this book from the first page and almost the last last pages. The ending just doesn't in-tune with my taste. (This is not a spoiler!)
"What's the rhythm, Langston?"
"Listen to your heart... Bad thoughts upset the heart. Happy thoughts do not disturb it unless they are sudden surprise. The rhythm of the heart is the first and the most important rhythm of human life."
The characters are lovely. Although Dash just came in a flash in the first chapters, I love him, simply because he loves playing with words and rhythms. Sum, I like her, but sometimes I hate her for being that mess for a mom. Well I can't blame her! It's a difficult times, and it's no doubt if she happened to be down that bad. I forgive her sometimes-childish personality because she ever read a bedtime story beautifully that night in the shelter. I could feel my heart was getting warm when she read that. :3
Early, even if she's still eleven, she is so grown-up that sometimes I can't believe she's still eleven. I love her bravery and her cleverness in playing with words, also I love that she changed the role of Dash when Dash is gone. She is the one who help her family keep holding fast to dream, things that they learn from Dash. I imagine Mara Wilson as Early when I read this book (just because she is Matilda). :p Jubie is different story. I don't really like him. Even if he's still a kid and barely cannot differ what should be and should not be told, I cannot forgive him by being so blabbermouth. :'(
I also love the side characters like Velma, one of their friend in shelter, and Mr. Waive, Dash's lecture. They both are lovely. Even they are just the sidekick, I have to be honest that I love them more than the four characters.
"When you're this poor and without money or an address, hardly anyone thinks you're worth listening to and helping." —Sum
In Hold Fast, Balliett took most of the setting inside a shelter (it described well and I found myself feeling sad and sorry for them). It was like she tried to tell us to be grateful for what we had and for not disdain them who live in the shelter and even the homeless, because who knows what happen? It was also like a message to the government to give a proper place to live for the homeless and fairness to every people even if they have different status.
Hold Fast also tell us about dream. A book about holding fast to dream, just like the title. Whatever bad things happen, you have to believe that there will be a way out. If you don't get the way out, create it yourself. Don't forget to keep clinging with your family. Don't lose hope. Just like what Langston said, if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly.
If you like a book about a family with a little mystery in it or if you love a book about loving books and words, then this book is for you. Hope you like it as I do. :)
Lastly, this is my all-time-favorite quotes from this book:
"... Reading is a tool no one can take away. A million bad things may happen in life and it'll still be with you, like a flashlight that never needs a battery. Reading can offer a crack of light on the blackest of nights." —Sum