VOYA - Mary Ann Capan
Stanley Yelnats, an underprivileged teen, is wrongly convicted of stealing. Faced with the choice between going to jail or attending Camp Green Lake, Stanley eagerly chooses the camp (something he has never experienced before). When he arrives, Stanley discovers that this juvenile detention center is neither green nor wet-it is in the middle of a desert. The center becomes Stanley's temporary home where he and others live under the most primitive conditions. Seven days a week, each detainee must dig a hole in the dried-up lake bed, five feet wide and five feet deep. According to the warden this builds character, but as the story unfolds, Stanley learns that they are not just digging to find themselves. When one of the boys runs away, Stanley goes after him. At the same time, this fast-paced book also tells the story of Stanley's family from generations ago. By the end, the reader comes to understand how the two stories are intertwined and ultimately resolved because of Stanley's courage and selflessness. This delightfully clever story is well-crafted and thought-provoking, with a bit of a folklore thrown in for good measure. Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses, Broad general YA appeal,
Children's Literature - Kathleen Karr
Because of a curse placed on his no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather, Stanley Yelnats finds himself at Camp Green Lake, a residence for juvenile offenders. Overweight and unlucky, Stanley tries to do his best to fit in and to excel at the camp's one activity: digging holes. Yes, holes. Holes precisely five feet deep by five feet wide all across the godforsaken desert landscape of a dried-out Texas lake. How holes become Stanley's salvation is the meat of this quirky, brink-of surreal story that believably floats between past lives and present realities. Sachar's earlier Wayside School stories always had a Pinkwaterish edge to them, but in Holes he comes fully, brilliantly into his own voice. This is a can't-put-it-down read.
This Newbery Medal winner also swept the other awards as well: National Book Award; an ALA Best Book for YAs; New York Times Book Review Notable Children's Book of the Year, and more. Here it is now in paperback. As most of you know by now, it is an unusual story that works like a puzzle slowly coming together, each piece more outlandish than the next. Stanley, the main character, is an overweight boy with no friendslike all the other Stanley Yelnats for several generations, he is cursed. In a terrible miscarriage of justice, he is sent to a detention center for delinquent youth, where boys are expected to dig holes all day long (hence the title). How all this is resolvedthe family curse, the holes and moreis the stuff of the sometimes-hilarious story. In my opinion, Holes is an excellent children's book, and I have a harder time seeing it as a YA choice; perhaps that is because the lines between children's literature and YA literature are frequently blurry these days. Exceptional book, recommended for junior high school students. 1998, Reviewer: Claire Rosser; July 2000 (Vol. 34 No. 4)
School Library Journal
Stanley Yelnats is an unusual hero-dogged by bad luck stemming from an ancient family curse, overweight, and unlikely to stick up for himself when challenged by the class bully. Perpetually in the wrong place at the wrong time, Stanley is unfairly sentenced to months of detention at Camp Green Lake (a gross misnomer if ever there was one!) where he's forced to dig one hole in the rock-hard desert soil every day. The hole must be exactly five feet in diameter, the distance from the tip of his shovel to the top of the wooden handle. Each boy is compelled to dig until his hole is completed, no matter how long it takes. According to the warden the digging "builds character." Stanley soon begins to question why the warden is so interested in anything "special" the boys find. How Stanley rescues his friend Zero, who really stole Sweet Feet's tennis shoes, what the warden is desperately looking for, and how the Yelnats curse is broken all blend magically together in a unique coming of age story leavened with a healthy dose of humor. Kerry Beyer's narration of Louis Sachar's Newbery Award-winning novel brings each of the characters vividly to life, and his pensive portrayal of Stanley brings out all that's most appealing about this unlucky loser who becomes a winner by the story's end. A first purchase for all public library collections.-Cindy Lombardo, Orrville Public Library, OH Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Sentenced to a brutal juvenile detention camp for a crime he didn't commit, a wimpy teenager turns four generations of bad family luck around in this sunburnt tale of courage, obsession, and buried treasure from Sachar (Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger). Driven mad by the murder of her black beau, a schoolteacher turns on the once-friendly, verdant town of Green Lake, Texas, becomes feared bandit Kissin' Kate Barlow, and dies, laughing, without revealing where she buried her stash. A century of rainless years later, lake and town are memories but, with the involuntary help of gangs of juvenile offenders, the last descendant of the last residents is still digging. Enter Stanley Yelnats IV, great-grandson of one of Kissin' Kate's victims and the latest to fall to the family curse of being in the wrong place at the wrong time; under the direction of The Warden, a woman with rattlesnake venom polish on her long nails, Stanley and each of his fellow inmates dig a hole a day in the rock-hard lake bed. Weeks of punishing labor later, Stanley digs up a clue, but is canny enough to conceal the information of which hole it came from.
Through flashbacks, Sachar weaves a complex net of hidden relationships and well-timed revelations as he puts his slightly larger-than-life characters under a sun so punishing that readers will be reaching for water bottles. Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this rugged, engrossing adventure.
From the Publisher
A New York Public Library's 100 Great Children's Books 100 Years selection
"A dazzling blend of social commentary, tall tale and magic realism."
Publishers Weekly, Starred
"There is no question, kids will love Holes."School Library Journal, Starred
Read an Excerpt
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.