Book: Holes (Louis Sachar)

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Book:

Holes

Author: Louis Sachar
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Publisher: Farrar Straus & Giroux

A darkly humorous tale of crime and punishment, by the author of There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom.

Stanley Yelnats’s family has a history of bad luck, so he isn’t too surprised when a miscarriage of justice sends him to a boys’ juvenile detention center, Camp Green Lake. There is no lake—it has been dry for over a hundred years—and it’s hardly a camp. As punishment, the boys must each dig a hole a day, five feet deep, five feet across, in the hard earth of the dried-up lake bed. The warden claims that this pointless labor builds character, but she is really using the boys to dig for loot buried by the Wild West outlaw Kissin’ Kate Barlow. The story of Kissin’ Kate, and of a curse put on Stanley’s great-great-grandfather by a one-legged Gypsy, weaves a narrative puzzle that tangles and untangles, until it becomes clear that the hand of fate has been at work in the lives of the characters—and their forebears—for generations.

With this wonderfully inventive, compelling novel that is both serious and funny, Louis Sachar has written his best book to date.

Reviews

Amazon.com

“If you take a bad boy and make him dig a hole every day in the hot sun, it will turn him into a good boy.” Such is the reigning philosophy at Camp Green Lake, a juvenile detention facility where there is no lake, and there are no happy campers. In place of what used to be “the largest lake in Texas” is now a dry, flat, sunburned wasteland, pocked with countless identical holes dug by boys improving their character. Stanley Yelnats, of palindromic name and ill-fated pedigree, has landed at Camp Green Lake because it seemed a better option than jail. No matter that his conviction was all a case of mistaken identity, the Yelnats family has become accustomed to a long history of bad luck, thanks to their “no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather!” Despite his innocence, Stanley is quickly enmeshed in the Camp Green Lake routine: rising before dawn to dig a hole five feet deep and five feet in diameter; learning how to get along with the Lord of the Flies-styled pack of boys in Group D; and fearing the warden, who paints her fingernails with rattlesnake venom. But when Stanley realizes that the boys may not just be digging to build character—that in fact the warden is seeking something specific—the plot gets as thick as the irony.

It’s a strange story, but strangely compelling and lovely too. Louis Sachar uses poker-faced understatement to create a bizarre but believable landscape—a place where Major Major Major Major of Catch-22 would feel right at home. But while there is humor and absurdity here, there is also a deep understanding of friendship and a searing compassion for society’s underdogs. As Stanley unknowingly begins to fulfill his destiny—the dual plots coming together to reveal that fate has big plans in store—we can’t help but cheer for the good guys, and all the Yelnats everywhere. (Ages 10 and older) —Brangien Davis

I’m not going to run away,” Stanley said. “Good thinking, ” said Mr Sir. “Nobody runs away from here. We don’t need a fence. Know why? Because we’ve got the only water for a hundred miles. You want to run away? You’ll be buzzard food in three days.” Stanley could see some kids dressed in orange and carrying shovels dragging themselves towards the tents. “You thirsty?” asked Mr Sir. “Yes, Mr Sir,” Stanley said gratefully. “Well, you better get used to it. You’re going to be thirsty for the next eighteen months.”

If you are looking for a truly remarkable novel, something to get your teeth into, something to make you think, and something to make you feel that you have just touched real class, then look no further than Louis Sachar’s extraordinary, award-winning novel Holes.

Camp Greenlake is a place for bad boys, where the belief is: “if you take a bad boy and make him dig a hole every day in the hot sun, it will turn him into a good boy.” When Stanley Yelnats, accused and found guilty of a crime he did not commit, is sent to Camp Greenlake he really doesn’t think it can be so bad. Stanley and his family try to pretend that he is just going away to camp like the rich kids do, and he promises to write to them every day. But the harsh realities of the camp, and the evil Warden with her lizard-venom impregnated fingernails with her own reasons for making the boys in her charge dig so many holes, sometimes make dying seem like a great idea. When Stanley leaves the camp to go in search of his friend Zero, their journey towards freedom becomes a battle with hunger, thirst and heat in the shadow of Big Thumb—a mountain so entwined in Stanley’s own family history that he knows if they can reach it they will somehow find salvation.

A complex story, riddled with the harsh imagery and barren despair, Holes is a perceptive and intricate homage to family and friendship which never shies away from the harshest of realities yet injects the story of a seemingly hopeless boy with a sly, sideways humour that crackles against the backdrop of the arid wastelands of the desert. An absolute must for anyone, young or old, who relishes an intelligent, courageous and dynamic read. (Age 11 and over)—Susan Harrison

Related Works

Album:Holes: Original Soundtrack

Holes: Original Soundtrack

Various Artists

The movie is about holes—specifically, a bunch of kids forced to dig them. Something else worth digging is the film’s soundtrack. Few of the 15 ultra-accessible songs miss their mark. Big-name artists Shaggy, Moby, and the Eels keep the kids hopping, while a heap of lesser-known acts also make impressive contributions, most notably Pepe Deluxe (the from-Mars-sounding “Everybody Pass Me By”) and the D-tent Boys (the irresistibly fun “Dig It”). It wouldn’t be a Disney soundtrack without a wannabe or two, and for that we have a sprinkling of flimsy rock and…

Film:Holes (2003)

Holes

Andrew Davis

Fans of author Louis Sachar’s book Holes will be delighted with this scrupulously faithful adaptation. After being wrongly found guilty of stealing a pair of sneakers, Stanley Yelnats (Shia LaBeouf) gets sent to Camp Green Lake, a juvenile correctional facility in the bed of a long-gone dry Texas lake. There—under the watchful eye of overseer Mr. Sir (a zesty Jon Voight), sneakily mean therapist Dr. Pendanski (Tim Blake Nelson, O Brother Where Art Thou?), and the cool and cruel Warden (Sigourney Weaver)—Stanley and dozens of other delinquents are…

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