By Louis Sachar
Genre: Realistic Fiction,
Reading Level: 5th grade
Interest Level: 5th-12th grade
Awards: Newbery Medal (1999), National Book Award for Young People’s Literature (1998), West Australian Young Readers’ Book Award (WAYRBA) for Older Readers (2001), Rebecca Caudill Young Reader’s Book Award (2002), Grand Canyon Reader Award for Teen Book (2001), Nene Award (2001), Massachusetts Children’s Book Award (2001), Flicker Tale Children’s Book Award (2000), Pennsylvania Young Readers’ Choice Award for Grades 6-8 (2000), Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children’s Book Award (2000), Evergreen Teen Book Award (2001), Sunshine State Young Readers Award for Grades 3-5 and Grades 6-8 (2002), Pacific Northwest Library Association Young Reader’s Choice Award for Junior (2001),Zilveren Zoen (2000), Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis Nominee for Jugendbuch (2001), Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Fiction (1999), New Mexico Land of Enchantment Award for Young Adult (2001), NECBA Fall List Title, Oklahoma Sequoyah Award for Children and YA (2001)
Teaser: Digging a hole doesn’t sound that hard in theory, but try digging a 6 foot hole every single day.
Summary: Stanley Yelnats is just an invisible guy that no one ever notices. It is probably because his family is cursed. They have been cursed for something that Stanley’s great-great-grandfather did. The curse causes Stanley to get into a questionable situation concerning some stolen shoes. He is convicted of crime he did not commit and is forced to go to Camp Green Lake, a detention center for teens. Everyday they are required to go out on the dried up lake under the hot sun and dig a 6 by 6 hole. Stanley has a rough start, but eventually makes friends with the other guys at Green Lake, especially a kid named Zero who he teaches how to read. Stanley and Zero uncover the truth about Camp Green Lake and the Warden. And they expose Camp Green Lake for its fraudulent actions.
Information about the Author: Wikipedia says, “Sachar graduated from UC Berkeley in 1976 with a degree in Economics, and began working on Sideways Stories From Wayside School, a children’s book set at an elementary school with supernatural elements. Although the book’s students were named after children from Hillside and there is a presumably autobiographical character named “Louis the Yard Teacher,” Sachar has said that he draws very little from personal experience, explaining that “….my personal experiences are kind of boring. I have to make up what I put in my books.” Sachar wrote the book at night over the course of nine months, during which he worked during the day in a Connecticut sweater warehouse. After being fired from the warehouse, Sachar decided to go to law school, around which time Sideways Stories From Wayside School was accepted for publication. The book was released in 1978; though it was not widely distributed and subsequently did not sell very well, Sachar began to accumulate a fan base among young readers. Sachar graduated from University of California, Hastings College of the Law in 1980 and did part-time legal work while continuing to write children’s books. By 1989, his books were selling well enough that Sachar was able to begin writing full-time. Sachar married Carla Askew, an elementary school counselor, in 1985. They live in Austin, Texas, and have a daughter, Sherre, born January 19, 1987. Sachar has mentioned both his wife and daughter in his books; Carla was the inspiration for the counselor in There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom (1988), and Stanley’s lawyer in Holes.”
Critical Evaluation: There are three different stories that are in this book. The main story is about Stanley at Camp Green Lake, but then there are two other stories. One story is when Staney’s great-great-grandfather, Elyas, was cursed by Madame Zeroni. The other story follows Kissin’ Kate Barlow when she lost the love of her life and became a criminal. I think that all these stories fit together so seamlessly. I am blown away at sachar’s ability to combine these stories, especially when he could have had Stanley figuring this stuff out instead of writing separate plot lines. I am glad that he did though because it was cool to see all the little pieces of the story fit into place at the end.
Curriculum Ties: English
Booktalk Ideas: Which of the story lines was your favorite? Why? Write a paragraph.
Challenge Issues: Mysticism
Challenge Resources: Rationale for choosing this book (see “Why Did I Pick This”), Engage students and parents in discussions about intellectual freedom, ALA Library Bill of Rights,Challenge Resources from the American Library Association
Why Did I Pick This: I picked this book because it is a realistic fiction book with a little mysticism thrown in. For me, that is what makes Holes an American tale. It has become a classic in young adult literature.
Sachar, L. (2000). Holes. New Jersey: Scholastic.