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Holes by Louis Sachar

Title Holes
Author Louis Sachar
City and Publisher New York: Dell Yearling
Year 1998
ISBN 0-440-41480-6

Teaser/Reader Annotation Stanley Yelnats IV always seems to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. When his bad luck gets him sent to a juvenile correction camp, he must discover the truth behind Camp Greenlake.

Plot Summary Stanley Yelnats was innocent of the crime that sentenced him to time at Camp Greenlake. He blamed his no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather and the family curse for where he ended up. Camp Greenlake was not like other camps; it was a work camp for juvenile delinquents where they dug holes every day. None of the kids at camp knew why they had to dig a hole exactly five feet wide and five feet deep day in and day out, and when they asked the only answer they were told was that it built character. It did not take Stanley long to realize that they were digging for a reason – the Warden was looking for something buried long ago underneath the dried-up lake where a prosperous town once thrived. When Stanley's friend Zero goes missing, however, it's a race against time and nature to find him and unearth the secret of Camp Greenlake.

Critical Evaluation It is easy to understand why this novel won a Newbery medal. It is a well-written, well-developed page turner that pulls the reader straight into the life and mystery at Camp Greenlake. There is enough humor and absurdity woven within the book to keep it from getting an overly serious tone and has thick layers of irony added to bring a satirical feel to the piece. The characters each have their own distinct voices and personalities, representing Sachar's writing skill and adding to the many themes and settings throughout the novel. It is easy to relate to the exasperation of Stanley over the improbable situations he keeps finding himself in. One of the things that sets this novel apart from other young adult novels is the way in which Sachar separates the teenage main character. For once, the parents are neither fools nor dead, but loving and supportive family members whom Stanley cherishes and misses. While this book was aimed at a male audience, it is something girls can also appreciate with the background story of Kissing Kate to keep their interest past the more guy oriented scenes.

About the Author Louis Sachar (March 20, 1954) was born in East Meadow, New York but moved to Tustin, California when he was nine. Through college he worked at an elementary school to earn credits, giving life and background to the characters in his children's book series Sideways Stories from Wayside School. Its publication earned him enough money to get through law school, and later, to begin writing full-time. While he had several books published in the meantime, it was not until the release of Holes in 1998 that he achieved true success and recognition.

Sacher married his wife, Carla, in 1985 and has been with the elementary school councilor ever since, using her as inspiration for characters in several of his novels. They live in Austin, Texas and have one daughter, Sherre.

Primary Genre Adventure

Curriculum Ties English, History

Booktalking Ideas

1) What do the boys' nicknames say about their personalities or life experiences?

2) How does Stanley's physical transformation through his camp experience reflect the internal one?

3) Why was it considered such a taboo for Kate to be enamored with Sam? What political issues at the time likely exasperated the issue?

Reading Level/Interest Age This is a low-grade novel, but the plot is interesting enough that it would interest older and more advanced readers as well.

Challenge Issues None.

Why is it included? This is an award winning novel that I greatly enjoyed as a young adult.