Louis Sachar's Holes
YA book review by Kimi McDiarmid
Ages 9 to 12
Synopsis: A clever story about a boy, some shoes, a dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather, and a dry lake full of holes. To be honest, this is a fun story for anyone to read.
Review: Louis Sachar has written some pretty funny books. If you look at Sideways Stories from Wayside School (and its sequels, Wayside School is Falling Down and Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger), you can easily see how his sense of humor appeals to kids.
His wacky humor in the Wayside series of books is toned down in the popular Holes, which is a bit more like There's a Boy in the Girl's Bathroom, but you have to see the humor in Mr. Sir, the yellow spotted lizards, and Stanley's dirty rotten pig stealing great-great-grandfather.
Stanley's family is cursed. Many years ago, his great-great-grandfather, Elya Yelnats, was supposed to carry a gypsy up a mountain in exchange for a pig, but he forgot and ran away. By the time he remembered, it was too late and the family was cursed with bad luck for generations.
This shows up in Stanley's life when a shoe falls from the sky and he ends up going to juvenile delinquents' camp, accused of stealing the shoe. The book is full of interesting coincidences.
The storyline can be a bit confusing at times, because it is actually a couple of storylines.
Stanley's family is cursed, this is true, but so is Green Lake, the place where Stanley is sent. And so the story in Holes goes between the present and the past - what is happening in Stanley's camp experience and what happened long ago to cause the curses.
In the end, everything connects and the quiet, bullied Stanley, along with the bullied and ignored Zero, is a hero. They manage to save their families.
The book itself is great for reading out loud. The chapters are individually short and the sentences lend themselves well to being spoken, so it's a great family book, too. My favorite part to read out loud is actually the first chapter: "There is no lake at Camp Green Lake..."
The ending is very satisfying, and it's nice how there is an explanation for everything - Louis Sachar even manages to work in an explanation for how Stanley found the shoe, and finds a way to point out that the yellow spotted lizards (with exactly 11 spots) won't bite someone who has eaten a lot of onions.
(That last sentence will make a lot more sense once you go read the book.)
In an even more clever play on words, he actually makes it relevant that Stanley's name backwards is the same as it is forwards.
I think kids who enjoy books that they have to figure something out will enjoy this book. Kids who have liked Sachar's Wayside School books have liked this.
In what I think is a great measure of how good this book is, every student I've handed this book to or who has had to read it for school has liked it, although a few have asked for help understanding what is going on.
In general, Holes is a very satisfying read.
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