by Blue Balliet
"Hold fast to dreams for if dreams go, life is a barren field covered with snow. hold fast to dreams for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly."
- Langston Hughes
They have always been four, Dashsumearlyjubie, a family that held tight to each other, loved each other, learned from each other and was happy. That is until Dash, the father, was hit by a truck and disappeared one snowy day. Summer, the mother, Early, the daughter, and Jubie, the young son, are distraught, knowing that their father who worked as a page at the Chicago Public Library was not the kind of father to walk away from them. Then one night, masked men break into their apartment with guns, steal all their books, and destroy their home. Forced to live in a shelter, Early takes it upon her self to solve the mystery of her father's disappearance and find them a new place to live. Guided by her father's favorite book, The First Book of Rhythms by Langston Hughes, she follows the sinister trail of betrayal and lies to find what is really going on while struggling to keep her family from falling apart.
This was a beautiful, poetic book that is absolutely in love with language. I was itching to read it out loud. The Pearl family loves words. They keep a book of new words that they discover and love. At the beginning of each book section is a word that has multiple definitions which encapsulate the next movement of the piece.
Towards the middle, I began to lose interest because not much was going on, but Balliet kept pulling me back in with the beautiful words, the strong bonds of love, the exploration of Langston's work that was the only thing that kept Early going, and the strong feeling of magic realism just in the corner of your eye. It is also a good introduction into the life of a homeless family, and I would probably read it to a class for both poetry and social justice.
A really beautiful book. I am going to pick up The First Book of Rhythms now.