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Holes ()

Newbery Award Winners

Stanley Yelnats is a boy who is being punished as a result of the gypsy curse laid on his "no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather."  He's sent to Camp Green Lake for stealing a pair of sneakers, though he claims they actually fell at his feet from out of the sky.  Stanley is innocent enough to think that Camp will be interesting, but soon finds himself digging five by five foot holes in a blazing sun.  He's surrounded by a gang of unpleasant fellow inmates with colorful nicknames and the whole place is overseen by a Warden who paints her nails with rattlesnake venom.  Intertwined with Stanley's story is that of his pig-thieving forbear and Kate Barlow, the Kissing Bandit.

Sachar has said his story was influenced by The Princess Bride, which is evident in the wordplay and in a certain fairy tale quality.  But where Princess Bride drew on everything from Pirate movies to Sword and Sorcery pulps, and followed conventional heroic adventure format, Sachar's plot is drawn more from American tall tales, like Pecos Bill, and, strangely enough for a children's book, such movies as Cool Hand Luke and such existentialist dilemmas as The Myth of Sisyphus.  Fate and doom seem to loom over the Yelnats family generally and Stanley in particular, though by story's end justice has been meted out, rather suddenly, to all concerned.

The reviews I've read have been uniformly favorable, even ecstatic, with many reviewers suggesting that even adults will enjoy the book.  But I didn't like it all that much.  If there's anything sillier than the idea that existence consists of mere drudgery (Existentialism) it would be that the drudgery is followed, arbitrarily, by a balancing of the cosmic scales.  Personally, I find the view that life is absurd to be morally corrosive and I'd just as soon not have my kids fall prey to such beliefs.  Of course, I'm a crotchety old man; this'll probably be their favorite book.


Grade: (C-)


Louis Sachar Links:

    -REVIEW: of Holes by Louis Sachar (Amanda Paulson, Christian Science Monitor)

Book-related and General Links:
    -EXCERPT : First Chapter of Holes by Louis Sachar
    -Louis Sachar : Teacher Resource Page
    -Scholastic : Meet Louis Sachar
    -At Random : Resource Center : Louis Sachar
    -SACHAR, LOUIS - Educational Paperback Association
    -Childrens's Book Council - Louis Sachar
    -PROFILE : Louis Sachar's Success Story (Barbara Strickland, Austin Chronicle)
    -ESSAY : A gold star for tedium : Do the Newbery Medal-winning children's books really have to be so dreary? (E.J. Graff, Salon)
    -Teacher CyberGuide for Holes by Louis Sachar (CyberGuide by Jeanie Fritzsche and Mary Lou Sortais)
    -Random House | Holes Teacher's Guide
    -READING GUIDE : for Holes (Annette Lamb)
    -REVIEW : of Holes By Louis Sachar (Betsy Hearne, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Holes (Victoria Lloyd, What Am I Going to Read?)
    -REVIEW : of Holes (Nancy Matson)
    -REVIEW : of Holes (Publishers Weekly)
    -REVIEW : of Holes (School Library Journal)
    -REVIEW : of Holes (Judie Richey, TeacherViews)
    -AWARD : Author Louis Sachar wins 1999 Newbery Medal (ALA)

    -REVIEW: of Holes (A. O. Scott, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of Holes: Digging for Treasure: In these Holes lives a wry, thrilling kids film (for adults, too) (Bill Gallo, Dallas Observer)