Kid Reporters

A Chat with Blue Balliett

The mystery writer talks to TFK about her new book, Hold Fast

July 26, 2013
PATTI WOLTER

TFK Kid Reporter Alice Gottesman meets with author Blue Balliet.

Stolen items, kidnappings and kid crime-solvers are some of the hallmarks of Blue Balliett’s mysteries. Her new book, Hold Fast, is no exception. When 11-year-old Early Pearl’s father suddenly disappears, she and her family go through a tough time and end up living in a homeless shelter. As the story unfolds, Early learns that her father’s disappearance is tied to the theft of valuable jewels. Balliett talked to TFK about the new book and about her life as an author. 

TFK:

What was your inspiration for Hold Fast?

BALLIETT:

I started thinking about it years ago because I read the newspapers, and I am somebody who is always interested in how kids see the world and think about things. I was reading about more and more families in the United States who were losing their homes, and yet I wasn't hearing much about the kids. I got really interested in the fact that these kids were too invisible. I wanted to know who they were and if there were some way I could shine a light on what their lives were like. Once I got into some of the family shelters in Chicago and met some of the kids, I was even more determined because they were just like kids I met everywhere else. They were talking about how to fix this problem and I thought, no one is listening to these kids and I want to change that. I wanted to give kids who were in the complicated situation of losing a home a chance to be the kids who could shine in this book.

TFK:

To which character from Hold Fast are you most similar?

BALLIETT:

I would have to say I would be most like Early although I think Early is much cooler than I was when I was little. I'm pretty determined when I want to get something done, and Early is a determined character. She doesn't give up. [Also] I love thinking about words and playing with them in my mind. I think I have always been that way. I love to read.

TFK:

Why do you set most of your books in Chicago?

Kid Reporter
Alice Gottesman

BALLIETT:

I love Chicago. I love big ideas about art and science. Chicago is a city where you can chase down so many puzzles and stories. It is such a wonderful environment to be writing in. It has all kinds of people and real-life mysteries to be worked on. I have such a wonderful time doing research. All the factual-sounding things in my books are real. I learn a lot when I write a book.

TFK:

Most of your books are art mysteries. Why is that?

BALLIETT:

I have an art history degree. I just love thinking about all of the mysteries and puzzles in the art world, and there are many of them. [There are so many] arguments over who made the art and whether the art is valuable and so many things everyday people can have an opinion on. Also, I read this book that came out when I was 12. Maybe it changed my life. It was From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler [by E.L. Konigsburg]. It was the first exciting mystery I read that was set in a place I knew [The New York Metropolitan Museum of Art]. I love that it had big ideas in it, and I liked the feeling she gave you in that book. She talked to you as if you were smart. I think it is possible I wouldn't have written Chasing Vermeer or written for kids or gotten a degree in art history if I hadn't read that book.

TFK:

Do you enjoy writing books for kids?

BALLIETT:

I love writing these books. Lots of the ideas in my books belong to the adult world, and I am a big believer that kids have big ideas. It is so much fun to write these books and send these ideas out into the world. It is an adventure for me.


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