Small Steps

Small Steps

4.5 207
by Louis Sachar

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Two years after being released from Camp Green Lake, Armpit is home in Austin, Texas, trying to turn his life around. But it’s hard when you have a record, and everyone expects the worst from you. The only person who believes in him is Ginny, his 10-year old disabled neighbor. Together, they are learning to take small steps. And he seems to be on the right path,…  See more details below


Two years after being released from Camp Green Lake, Armpit is home in Austin, Texas, trying to turn his life around. But it’s hard when you have a record, and everyone expects the worst from you. The only person who believes in him is Ginny, his 10-year old disabled neighbor. Together, they are learning to take small steps. And he seems to be on the right path, until X-Ray, a buddy from Camp Green Lake, comes up with a get-rich-quick scheme. This leads to a chance encounter with teen pop sensation, Kaira DeLeon, and suddenly his life spins out of control, with only one thing for certain. He’ll never be the same again.

In his first major novel since Holes, critically acclaimed novelist Louis Sachar uses his signature wit combined with a unique blend of adventure and deeply felt characters to explore issues of race, the nature of celebrity, the invisible connections that determine a person’s life, and what it takes to stay on course. Doing the right thing is never a wrong choice–but a small step in the right direction.

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Editorial Reviews

Now free from the "rehabilitative" confines of Camp Green Lake, Theodore Johnson (a.k.a. Armpit) has set himself five plausible goals: 1. Graduate from high school. 2. Get a job. 3. Save money. 4. Avoid situations that might become violent. 5. Lose the nickname. Unfortunately for the hero of Holes, things are never quite that simple. In Small Steps, "Armpit" blunders into a major scam and an equally major celebrity hook-up. A nice follow-up to Louis Sachar's Newbery Award–winning novel.

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
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Random House
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File size:
436 KB
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

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A rusted Honda Civic drove noisily down the street and parked across from the mayor’s house. Armpit had finished digging his trench and was attaching PVC pipe. The mayor had gone back inside.

The driver-side door had been bashed in, and it would have cost more to fix than the car was worth. The driver had to work his way over the stick shift and then exit on the passenger side.

The personalized license plate read: X RAY.

“Armpit!” X-Ray shouted as he crossed the street. “Armpit!”

The guys at work didn’t know him by that name, but if he didn’t say something X-Ray would just keep on shouting. Better to answer and shut him up.

“Hey,” he called back.

“Man, you’re really sweating,” X-Ray said as he came near.

“Yeah, well, you’d sweat too if you were digging.”

“I’ve already dug enough dirt to last one lifetime,” said X-Ray.

They had met each other at Camp Green Lake.

“Look, don’t call me Armpit around other people, all right?” Armpit said.

“But that’s your name, dawg. You should never be ashamed of who you are.”

X-Ray had the kind of smile that kept you from hating him no matter how annoying he was. He was skinny and wore glasses, which were now covered with clip-on shades.

He picked up Armpit’s shovel. “Different shape.”

“Yeah, it’s for digging trenches, not holes.”

X-Ray studied it awhile. “Seems like it would be harder to dig with. No leverage.” He let it drop. “So you must be making a ton of money.”

Armpit shrugged. “I’m doing all right.”

“A ton of money,” X-Ray repeated.

Armpit felt uncomfortable talking about money with X-Ray.

“So really, how much you got saved up so far?”

“I don’t know. Not that much.”

He knew exactly how much he had. Eight hundred and fifty-seven dollars. He hoped to break a thousand with his next paycheck.

“Got to be at least a thousand,” said X-Ray. “You’ve been working for three months.”

“Just part-time.”

Besides working, Armpit was also taking two classes in summer school. He had to make up for all the schooling he’d missed while at Green Lake.

“And they take out for taxes and stuff, so really I don’t take home all that much.”

“Eight hundred?”

“I don’t know, maybe.”

“The reason I’m asking,” X-Ray said, “the reason I’m asking is I got a business proposition for you. How would you like to double your money in less than two weeks?”

Armpit smiled as he shook his head. “I don’t think so.”

“I just need six hundred dollars. Double your money, guaranteed. And I won’t be taking out any taxes.”

“Look, things are going all right for me right now, and I just want to keep it all cool.”

“Don’t you even want to hear me out?”

“Not really.”

“It’s not against the law,” X-Ray assured him. “I checked.”

“Yeah, you didn’t think selling little bags of parsley for fifty dollars an ounce was against the law either.”

“Hey, it’s not my fault what people think they’re buying. How is that my fault? Am I supposed to be a mind reader?”

X-Ray had been sent to Camp Green Lake for selling bags of dried parsley and oregano to customers who thought they were buying marijuana. That was also why his family had to move from Lubbock to Austin shortly after he was released.

“Look, I just don’t want to do anything that might screw things up,” Armpit said.

“That’s what you think? That I came here to screw things up? Man, I’m offering you an opportunity. An opportunity. If the Wright brothers came to you, you would have told them it’s impossible to fly.”

“The Wright brothers?” asked Armpit. “What century are you living in?”

“I just don’t get it,” said X-Ray. “I don’t get it. I offer my best friend an opportunity to double his money, and he won’t even listen to my idea.”

“All right, tell me your idea.”

“Forget it. If you’re not interested I’ll find somebody else.”

“Tell me your idea.” He actually was beginning to get just a little bit curious.

“What’s the point?” asked X-Ray. “If you’re not going to even listen . . .”

“All right, I’m listening,” said Armpit.

X-Ray smiled. “Just two words.” He paused for effect. “Kaira DeLeon.”

It was eleven-thirty in Austin, but it was an hour later in Atlanta, where Kaira DeLeon, a seventeen-year-old African American girl, was just waking up. Her face pressed against Pillow, which was, in fact, a pillow. There wasn’t much oomph left in the stuffing, and the edges were frayed. The picture of the bear with a balloon, which had once been brightly colored, had faded so much it was hardly visible.

Kaira groggily climbed out of bed. She wore boxer shorts and was unbuttoning her pajama top as she made her way to what she thought was the bathroom. She opened the door, then shrieked. A thirty-year-old white guy, sitting on a couch, stared back at her. She clutched the two halves of her pajama top together and slammed the door.

The door bounced back open.

“Doofus!” Kaira shouted at the man, then closed the door again, making sure it latched this time. “Can’t a person have some privacy around here!” she screamed, then made her way to the bathroom, which was on the opposite side of her bed.

Over the last three and a half weeks she’d been in nineteen different hotel suites, each with no fewer than three rooms, and one with six. So really, it was no wonder she went through the wrong door. She didn’t even remember what city she was in.

She suspected that Polly, her psychiatrist, would tell her she had done that on purpose; something about wanting to show her body to her bodyguard. Maybe she was better off not telling Polly about it. Everything she said in her therapy sessions was supposed to be confidential, but Kaira suspected that Polly, like a parrot, repeated everything to El Genius.

She had no privacy–not in her hotel room, not even in her own thoughts.

The problem was that, except for Polly, there wasn’t anybody on the tour she could talk to. Certainly not her mother. And not her doofus bodyguard. The guys in her band were all at least forty years old, and treated her like she was a snot-nosed little kid. The backup singers were in their late twenties, but they seemed to resent her being the center of attention.

The only time she felt at peace was when she was singing. Then it was just her and the song and everybody else just disappeared.

Her concert tour would take her to a total of fifty-four cities, so she wasn’t even half done yet. She was now on the southern swing. From Atlanta they’d be going to Jacksonville, then Miami, Birmingham, Memphis, Nashville, Little Rock, and Baton Rouge, and on to Texas: Houston, Austin, and Dallas. Originally the tour was supposed to include San Antonio instead of Austin, but that was changed at the last minute due to a monster truck rally at the Alamodome–not that Kaira cared, or even knew about the change.

Other people took care of things like that. Other people took care of everything. Kaira had accidentally left Pillow behind in New Haven, and Aileen, the tour’s travel coordinator, took a flight back to Connecticut and personally searched the hotel laundry until she found it.

_ _ _

Kaira emerged from the bathroom thirty minutes later wearing a hotel robe. She called room service and ordered a glass of orange juice, pancakes, a cappuccino, and French fries. It would have to last her until the concert. If she tried to eat before the concert she’d puke. After a concert she usually had a bowl of ice cream.

She got dressed, then stepped back out to the sitting area. Fred, her doofus bodyguard, was still there, going through her mail.

“As soon as I turn eighteen, you’re going to be the second person I fire.”

Fred didn’t even look up. It wasn’t the first time he’d heard it.

The television was on CNN. Kaira changed the station to the Cartoon Network.

The first person she’d fire would be El Genius. He was her business manager and agent, and also happened to be married to her mother. They had gotten married shortly before the tour. His real name was Jerome Paisley, but he actually wanted people to call him El Genius. No matter how hard Kaira tried to sound sarcastic when she used that name, he always took it as a compliment.

Her father had been killed in Iraq. His name was John Spears. Kaira’s real name was Kathy Spears, but there was already a famous singer with that last name.

El Genius had come up with the name Kaira DeLeon.

“You mean like Ponce de León?” Kaira had asked him.


Some genius.

Kaira explained to the genius who Ponce de León was, which was why her first CD was titled The Fountain of Youth El Genius thought it looked classy for DeLeon to be spelled as one word, with a capital letter in the middle.

Kaira had learned all about Ponce de León when she was in fourth grade and living at the Pensacola Naval Air Station. She had to learn the history of Florida. By year’s end she was living at Fort Myer, where they’d been studying the history of Virginia all year. She had never spent an entire school year in the same place.

“So, anything from Billy Boy?” she asked Fred.

Fred shook his head.

“Aw, too bad,” Kaira said. “He writes such charming letters.”

“It’s not funny,” said Fred.

“I think it’s hilarious,” said Kaira. She sang, “Oh, where have you been, Billy Boy, Billy Boy? Oh, where have you been, charming Billy?

Billy Boy had sent her four letters so far. He told her he thought she was lovely, she sang like a bird, and someday he would kill her.

El Genius hired Fred after the first letter. Kaira wouldn’t have been surprised if El Genius had actually written the letters, to scare her into staying confined to her hotel room. He was such a control freak. She was sure Fred told him everything she did.

“You got another marriage proposal,” Fred said.

“White or black?”

A photograph had been sent with he letter. Fred looked at it. “White,” he said.

“What is it with you guys?” asked Kaira.

It was her seventh proposal, and every one had been from a white man.

Fred carefully put the letter and the photograph in a plastic bag.

“What are you doing that for?”


“He said he wanted to marry me, not kill me,” Kaira pointed out.

“For some people, it’s the same thing,” said Fred.

Kaira glanced at him, surprised. The Doofus had actually said something kind of profound.

“Let me see what he looks like?”

Fred handed her the plastic bag.

Kaira laughed when she saw the picture. “He looks like you!” The photograph was that of a very muscular man wearing no shirt. The only difference between him and Fred was that his hair was long and wavy, while Fred had a buzz cut.

“You ought to grow your hair out,” Kaira told him as she handed the plastic bag back to him.

Seven marriage proposals, and she’d never had a boyfriend.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Small Steps 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 207 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It wasnt as awesome as holes, but still a really good book 8-)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
They should make of movie of this like holes!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you have ever seen or read the book/movie Holes you will be interested in the book Small Steps. This book is the sequel to the book Holes. The main characters of the book are Armpit and X-Ray; they were both in the first book Holes. Also there is a new character, not in the first book, named Kaira DeLeon, a famous singer. The book takes place in Austin Texas in alower class enviroment. The main event that takes place is Armpit and X-Ray buy six tickets to the concert so they can resell them to make more money. A quality about this book that makes it different than any other book is that it is more relatable to your life like you actually feel his emotions or feelings or troubles. A suprise moment in the novel is instead of resealing two of the six tickets he bought to resell; he keeps two and takes his friend of his that has a disability. Being the sequel to one of my favorite movies was what drew me into the novel. Some examples of excellent writing is for every time the disable person would talk therte would be a stutter. In conclusion if you were considering if this book is worth reading i would highly recommend that you read it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Small Steps is my new favorte book! I truly loved it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is the bomb, i dd not get it on the nook but i read it. It is an awesome book, i recommend it to eveeryone. It has some humor, some romance( no pg-13) , and some innapropriate stuff at the end. Take it from me, an eleven year old girl. REEEEEEEEAAAAADDD IIIIITTTT!!!!!! :) :) :) :) :) :D
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This sequel to Holes follows Armpit (now Theodore) and X-Ray after their release from the now defunct Camp Green Lake. Armpit is finishing high school and is gainfully employed by a landscaping company. (As the owner says, 'You Camp Green Lake boys dig faster than anyone I know.') X-Ray, however, is still scheming--and offers to let his buddy Armpit in on his latest deal. Armpit is torn between loyalty to his friend and wanting to stay on his path to success. Issues of breaking old habits and choosing to do the right thing are at the forefront, making this an excellent read for middle and high school students--and adult fans of the previous book and the movie as well. My 7th- and 8th-grade students are already clamoring to read it! Well done, Mr. Sachar! (...when's the movie?)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
But readbholes first
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is Zbomb love it so much i think its better than holes. Though i do not know what it has to do with HOLES!!!!!!LOL
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I lov smallsteps sooooooooo much
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Read it! It is wonderful, and entertaining!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book! I read it when I was in 6th grade.......I am currently a freshman.....Whoo-Hoo.......but I do recommend this book!!!!!!! :D
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Best book in the whole wide world
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read holes several times. I am planning on getting this book it sounds good.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book taught me to very impotant lesons. First, take small steps to get through life, if the step you take is too big... the current wil sweep you off your feet. Oh. I forgot there is a number two. Two, people may say mean thing to you or to someone else and before you rush over to them at recess or in the hall...ask your self, do you think what they said is true? Amanda Roodzant
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love the book. It is about Armpit and X-ray from Holes. Recommend to ages 11 and up.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I like both,I really do, but what does small steps have to do with holes but still,you should TOTALLY get this book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
All I have to say is that I am completely blown away with how good of a writer Louis Sachar is. This book, and also the original, kept me up late at night reading until I couldn't keep my eyes open.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book is incredible. Armpit and x ray get back ttogether
InTheBookcase More than 1 year ago
Small Steps is the sequel to the award-winning book, Holes. How was life for Armpit and X-Ray after their term at Camp Greenlake? Armpit is back home in Austin with his mother, after his release from the camp. He's trying to keep himself busy and stay out of trouble now. X-Ray is making things hard on Armpit with ticket-scalping/get-rich ideas that could eventually land them in trouble. There is, shall I say, a "huge step" between Holes and Small Steps. Particularly, I am referring to the suggested age for kids reading these books. Holes was great for middle-graders, but Small Steps has more mature themes and additional language that the first book didn't contain. Personally, I don't really recommend reading Small Steps for the reasons I've just mentioned. Regardless, the sequel may or may not be suited for the same kids who just finished reading Holes.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Read holes first small steps will know who armpit and xray are.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read the book at least thirty-three times.I have enjoyed the book each time i read it.It kept me guessing every time.I also enjoyed reading AND watching the movie and book. Mr. Louis Sachar, if you can read this post right now,i want to thank you for for sharing your amazing talent with the world! BT dubs My name is Jaziah Sales, do you think you could maybe perhaps wrire a book about me???
Anonymous More than 1 year ago