As further evidence of his family's bad fortune which they attribute to a curse on a distant relative, Stanley Yelnats is sent to a hellish correctional camp in the Texas desert where he finds his first real friend, a treasure, and a new sense of himself.
Original publication date
Stanley Yelnats is on his way to Camp Green Lake, a remote correctional facility which runs on the basis that young offenders will become better people by digging holes across the vast empty lake bed. One hole every day, five feet across and five feet deep - and for heaven's sake, if you come across a yellow-spotted lizard, run for your life, because you do not want to be bitten by one of those. In between the narrative of Stanley's stay twist the old tales that have become Yelnat family myth: that of his great-great-grandfather Elya, whose broken promise led to an elderly Egyptian woman cursing him and his descendents, and of his great-grandfather, the first Stanley Yelnats, who was robbed by the notorious outlaw Kissin' Kate Barlow and left on the desert plain to die. As the novel progresses these tales begin to echo down the years, whispering clues and engineering coincidences, until Stanley begins to suspect there's more to the increasingly sinister Camp Green Lake than meets the eye...
This book has everything. A wicked sense of humour and a divine sense of the bizarre. A haunting backdrop and a weepie moment or three. A motley crew of heroes and villains sweeping across the generations. Rattlesnakes and magic mountains, onions and sneakers - oh, and LOTS of holes. Look, just take my word for it, okay? Read it!
A good part of why it works is the gleeful use of coincidence, crazy actions, and jokes at the expense of adults. It's a well-written book with great characterization and clever prose. The film, on the other hand, is workmanlike, Disney unable to capture for cinema the magic in Sachar's telling.
In this young adult novel, the reader follows the development of protagonist Stanley, who progresses from being bullied at school to being a courageous young boy at Camp Green Lake. While the narrator clearly shows his opinion about the effectiveness of digging holes to 'build character', ironically, it is exactly this that helps Stanley in his development in the end. The novel explores the meaning of friendship in a world of hardship for boys who come from poor families or do not even know their families. To my mind, the novel is less criticism of teenage correctional facilities or boot camps, but rather a story revolving around a likeable protagonist everyone can sympathize with. It is Stanley and his relationships to the other boys in the story that are most important in unfolding a plot that is almost secondary. Eventually, Holes follows Stanley in his endeavor to step out of the hole that is his life.
I would recommend this novel to teenagers and any other readers interested in young adult fiction. 3 stars.
What do the holes fat kid Stanley is digging at a boot camp have to do with Kissin' Kate Barlow, the famous outlaw? Who took the trainers Stanley didn't steal? And what has God's thumb got to do with anything?
As you devour the chapters in quick succession, it seems impossible that all the strands of Sachar's engaging story will be woven together by the end, but they are, and it's magnificent.
Oh yes, let's not forget Kissin' Kate's peaches and her lover's onions. This book's like a puzzle that fits together pieces you didn't even know were there. Read it.
Themes from this book could be guilty or innocence. Have students read this book and they could decide if they thought Stanley was guilty or innocent. Students would have their own ideas on this subject matter, because as a reader you could pick out different facts to prove your point. Have the students define what guilty and innocence means. That way the students would have a better meaning of these words before they read this book.
I would give this book a rating of 4. This book is about a boy named Stanley Yelants. He gets arrested for stealing Clyde Livingston' shoes. Stanley tells the officers they fell out of the sky and hit him on the head. Stanley's parents tell him is he cursed by his no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather. He gets sent to Camp Green Lake. Mr. Sir tells Stanley when he arrives that this is not a Girl Scout Camp. Mr. Sir's expectations for all the boys there is to dig a 5 by 5 hole each day. Stanley has two sets of orange clothes to wear. The first Stanley Yelants had a great fortune in the stock market until he was robbed by the outlaw Kissin' Kate Barlow. Stanley would be living in California instead of a tiny apartment that smelled like foot odor. Stanley was assigned to group D. The campers had to make sure they did not get bit by a yellow - spotted lizard; if they did they would become very sick. Stanley found a lipstick tube with the initals "KB". Stanley had to give it to X-Ray. X-Ray got the rest of the day off. One of Stanley's group members stoled Mr. Sir's sunflower seeds. Stanley took the blame for this. Mr. Sir takes Stanley to see Mrs. Walker. Mrs. Walker stratches Mr. Sir with her fingernails. Stanley teaches Zero how to read. Zero hits Mr. Pendanski with a shovel. Zero runs away after this. Stanley steals the water truck and he was driving to find Zero. Stanley drives the water truck into a hole. Stanley then walks to find Zero. Stanley finds Zero. Zero was very pale and sick. Stanley and Zero goes up the mountain. They are surviving on water and onions. Finally, they return to the camp. Stanley and Zero are released from Camp Green Lake. Camp Green Lake was eventually taken over by the state of Texas. It was then turned into a Girl Scout Camp.
Stanley Yelnats has a number of distinctions
. His last name is his frist name spelled backward
. He comes from a long line of Stanley Yelnats who have a string of back luck
. He is wrongfully
Stanley serves his sentence at Camp Green Lake -- a camp that isn't green, doesn't hold a lake and is filled with holes. Those holes are dug by the young men who are serving their time in the dry, tremendously hot, snake and lizard filled dessert.
The cast of characters includes an evil warden, a nasty warden's assistant and a small group of vagabond boys who toil and dig hole by hole in the noon day sun. Soon Stanley discovers the reason for the digging is indeed the greed of the warden who seeks a buried treasure.
The beauty of the story is the development and maturity of the boys, the sense of loyalty, need for independence and the desire to right the unfair wrongs.
While I enjoyed the book, I was disappointed with the end and felt there were indeed too many holes that were not filled in.
I would most definitely teach this story in my classroom. Two major themes shown throughout the book are those of redemption and ancestry. The first, redemption, is a tremendous theme throughout the book for many of the characters: Stanley, Zero, and even Stanley’s family. The second, ancestry, is great to teach students that they have a past that goes beyond their family living today.
I love this book. It is a great story that is fun and interesting, while at the same time, being well-written. However, I did like the movie more than the book, so I would recommend watching the movie before reading the book. It just seems to flow better in video form, rather than in written form.
Holes is a propulsive adventure story, not something you'd probably expect when the main character has been falsely convicted of theft sent to a juvenile labor camp to dig one 5x5x5 foot hole a day "reform his character". This isn't Hogwarts, where overweight Stanley finally makes good friends; the camp is clearly not even trying to help his fellow inmates, many of whom--it is implied--have unaddressed mental health and behavioral issues. The adults are little better, having found a refuge for their own issues in a place that lets them bully people less powerful than they are with impunity.
Sachar balances the bits that could get boring by telling us those two other stories. There's the fairy tale-like story of the Yelnats family curse, brought down upon them when Stanley's great-great grandfather fails to fulfill a promise made to a wise woman in exchange for her help wooing the local beauty. The curse echoes through the generations, snatching away any the few scraps of luck the Yelnats family manages to achieve. And there's the story of Katherine Barlow, a lovely teacher in a lovely town on the edge of Green Lake, Texas, who makes the mistake of falling for a lovely local onion seller who happens to be Black--in the 19th century. Their doomed romance triggers Barlow's transformation, along with the transformation of Green Lake into a barren desert.
Holes also tackles a lot of social issues--the failures of the justice system, poverty, homelessness, illiteracy, bullying, racism, abusive authority figures--without ever feeling preachy or weighted down by exposition and explanation.
The plot probably sounds like quite a tangle, but all three of these stories balance each other out. Sachar sprinkles the stories from the past throughout the monotonous months when Stanley does little more than dig his one hole a day, keeping the reader engaged. It certainly stretched my brain the first time I read it. My first reread was also my first experience making new connections and discoveries despite having read the book before.
Holes is so engaging that I never felt talked down to even though I'm now in my 30s. "Fun for the whole family" is such a trite phrase, but I do believe this is a book that a whole family could enjoy reading together. It would have been a great one to read to my sisters and the captive audience of my parents while driving around out west, as I did with the Harry Potter series and Ella Enchanted--though I can't remember if I did.
For the record, I felt the film adaptation of Holes was one of the best book-to-movie conversions ever made, remaining sleek, capturing the humor, sticking close to the story. Just maybe a bit too cheery and upbeat compared to the original.
Again, highly recommended.
p. 59) He guessed he'd lost at least five pounds. He figured that in a year and a half he'd be either in great physical condition, or else dead.
My biggest beef with the film adaptation is that Stanley isn't shown overweight, as he is in the book. There aren't enough depictions in books and films of kids who are big who aren't made into jokes. Stanley never becomes skinny, just fit. The two are far from mutually exclusive.
p. 82) He needed to save his energy for people who counted. ... His muscles and hands weren't the only parts of his body that had toughened over the past several weeks. His heart had hardened as well.
I totally forgot this aspect of Stanley's character development. Following the lead of the toxic councilors and the other kids, Stanley turns into a pretty big jerk--even if never to the level of the bullies who actively tormented him. Sachar makes a pretty good implied point about how the environment--physical and emotional--that we're in can shape our personalities.
p. 123) Kate smiled. There was nothing they could do to her anymore. "Start digging," she said.
Mic drop. Mwahahaha.
p. 161) "I wonder who she was," said Zero.
"Mary Lou," said Zero.
Stanley smiled. "I guess she was once a real person on a real lake. It's hard to imagine."
"I bet she was pretty," said Zero. "Somebody must have loved her a lot, to name a boat after her."
"Yeah," said Stanley. "I bet she looked great in a bathing suit, sitting in the boat while her boyfriend rowed."
p. 186) Two nights later, Stanley lay awake staring up at the star-filled sky. He was too happy to fall asleep.
He knew he had no reason to be happy. He had heard or read somewhere that right before a person freezes to death, he suddenly feels nice and warm. He wondered if perhaps he was experiencing something like that.
It occurred to him that he couldn't remember the last time he felt happiness. It wasn't just being sent to Camp Green Lake that had made his life miserable. Before that he'd been unhappy at school, where he had no friends, and bullies like Derrick Dunne picked on him. No one liked him, and the truth was, he didn't especially like himself.
He liked himself now.
He wondered if he was delirious.
*Internal sniff.* I'm not "aww"-ing, you are!
Reflection: I love it, I love it, I love it! Holes has always been a favorite movie of mine, so I was eager to read the book. Louis Sachnah is a GREAT author! I just think he's a genius for how this story blends the past and the present, and how these characters all tie together. It's a wonderful story.
Extension ideas: I think the kids would love to see the movie, and I'd also serve snacks during the viewing. I'd give them some canned peaches, like Kate makes in the book.
I'd seen the movie a few years back without realizing it was based on an award winning book. It's always hard
Overall, I really enjoyed the book and I'm glad we have it in our home for the kids to read. While not as wholly whimsical as his Wayside School books, Holes is filled with great humor and wonderfully perceptive observations of people and the world.
Sachar created his characters very skillfully in just a couple of pages in each story of Wayside School. With a full novel, he was able to take that character development farther and really bring these characters to life. I was very impressed with the depth he gave to Stanley and the other characters at Camp Green Lake. I found myself very emotionally invested in the plot.
The plot itself was rooted in reality but with enough whimsical elements and crazy coincidences that it was very comical to read. I wonder if some of the "flashback" style sequences might be confusing at first. Having already seen the movie, they felt completely natural, though I do have a memory from watching the movie that reminds me that I was initially slightly confused. Still, the plot and pacing is quick and straight forward enough that I suspect any disorientation with the multiple plot lines would be quickly resolved by an average reader.
I loved the 'fairy-tale'-like elements of the story. If I have time, maybe I'll make it a project to try and parallel some of the characters from Holes with some characters from classic Grimm Fairy Tales. Could be fun. :)
Overall, Holes was a lot of fun and I definitely recommend it. With all the male protagonists, it's probably more of a "boy" book, but I'm guessing girls would enjoy it as well (it does have a love story stuck in the middle for those hopeless romantics).
I would ask kids in a classroom to discuss what the hardest thing about being away from home would be. I would also tell them to discuss what three things that they missed the most be and how would they handle it. I would ask the students to write about how they related to Stanley and how his struggles impacted them.
I loved this book! I would definitely encourage students to read this book. Stanley had a very harsh punishment and I think that it would help some to realize that they didn’t have it as bad as they thought they did. It really made me want to know what was buried there as bad as Stanley wanted to know. I was so curious to find out what would happen in the end and if they would get away or not especially once the warden was there.
I enjoyed the style of writing, the story within a story plus the message of the book ‘look carefully, things are not always what they appear to be’.
A read that would appeal to boys and well deserving of the Newbery Medal award.
A brilliantly funny novel.