Friday, July 12, 2013


 by Langston Hughes

2 and 2 are 4
4 and 4 are 8

But what would happen
if the last 4 was late?

Read the rest of the poem here.

OK, I'm finally going to admit it. I think I might be a little bit of a literary nerd. I love, love, love when I find literary connections within books, and especially within children's books. And in this week's read, HOLD FAST by Blue Balliet,  I found a doozy.

HOLD FAST is the story of the Pearl family- Dashel and Summer, and their children Early and Jubilee. Dash and Summer were teen parents, and the family is money-poor, so poor that they live in a one-room apartment in Chicago. They are rich in that they cherish each other-- Early truly believes that there is no other Dashsumearlyjubie family in the world. Dash, who grew up in the foster care system,  loves, loves, loves words, and especially loves the poetry of Langston Hughes and instills that same love in his children. Everyone in the family knows that when Jubie is old enough for school, Summer will get a job, and then Dash, currently a page at the Harold Washington Library, will go to college.

But then tragedy strikes. One cold January day, Dash doesn't come home from work. His bike, groceries, and a small pocket notebook are found three blocks from home. And soon, Summer, Early, and Jubilee, find themselves in a homeless shelter. Her mother is totally overwhelmed, and Early finds herself taking care of the family while attempting to solve the mystery of her father's disappearance.

I loved this book. I woke up at 4:39 this morning, considered going back to sleep, but then decided to get up and finish reading, because I wanted to know what happened to Dash. I loved that the students at my school (95% free lunch and many who have lived through periods of homelessness) will be able to see that they are not alone. I loved that Early does not allow the difficulties of her situation or the meanness of other kids, to beat her into the ground.

And most of all, I loved how author Blue Balliet wove Langston Hughes' poetry throughout the text.The Pearl family owns THE FIRST BOOK OF RHYTHMS, one of the few picture books written by Langston Hughes. It's not poetry, but it makes a great found poem:


to the rhythm
to your heart…

the  flow 
of thoughts and emotions
can change 
this rhythm 
for a while. 

Bad thoughts
upset the heart.
Happy thoughts
do not disturb it
unless they are 
sudden surprises. 

the heart pumps
the same number 
of beats 

The rhythm 
of the heart
is the first
and most important 

rhythm of human life.

Dash frequently asked himself , "What's the rhythm, Langston?" and Early finds herself asking that same question as she attempts to solve the mystery of her father's disappears. Langston Hughes' poetry comforts and encourages Early as she lives with the huge hole in her family. I wonder how many of the kids I know might find this same comfort…

You can read other POETRY FRIDAY offerings at Today's Little Ditty.


Linda B said...

I loved this book, Carol! I thought it gave some new things to consider about homelessness/being in a shelter, & about stereotypes that people who are poor are also dumb. I think it would make a great read aloud, or group read. Would love to discuss it with kids! And, the poetry love included, as you shared, was wonderful! Thank you for sharing!

Michelle Heidenrich Barnes said...

Oh my. Your description of this book gave me chills... it's going on my to-read list as soon as I'm done with this comment! And your found poem too-- wonderful!

Becky Shillington said...

Thank you so much for letting us know about this book--I will put in on my Kindle list today. I love the Langston Hughes poem, to. So talented!

Bridget Magee said...

*ssshhh* don't tell anyone, but I'm a bit of a literary nerd, too. And I'm a big fan of Blue Balliet - I'm going to look up this title. =)

Mary Lee said...

I LOVED this book! I thought Blue Balliett did an amazing job weaving Langston Hughes into the story. I am in awe of her writing!!

Beverley Baird said...

Have not read this book but you have definitely made a wonderful case for me to do so.
I love Langston's poetry so I am sure to enjoy this book.