Though Sachar's companion to Holes isn't as intricately crafted as that Newbery winner, McClarin's multi-layered reading helps the author's words shine on this audiobook that improves upon the print reading experience. The accomplished actor brings to his characterizations a sassy energy and verisimilitude that injects Sachar's dialogue and descriptions with some memorable zing. The story picks up with 16-year-old Armpit, one of the kids who served time at juvenile detention center Camp Greenlake with Stanley Yelnats, two years after their release. Armpit has been taking the titular small steps to a respectable life-holding down a landscaping job, finishing school, being a protective best friend to a young neighbor with cerebral palsy. But when X-Ray, a fellow Camp Green Lake detainee, comes up with a risky get-rich-quick ticket-scalping scheme, Armpit temporarily gets lured into taking a few steps backward. A contrived twist of plot has him appropriately righted again, saving the day (and a teen pop star). Listeners will no doubt compare this to its quirkier, more dream-like predecessor, but will be entertained by McClarin's vibrant work on this detour from Green Lake. Ages 12-up. (Jan.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
With this book, author Louis Sachar brings back the character Theodore Johnson, a.k.a. Armpit, from his Newbery Award-winning book, Holes. Armpit, an African-American teen, is working hard to rebuild his life after returning home from Camp Green Lake. That is hard to do when everyone knows about your criminal record, so Armpit takes small steps to stay in line and make good choices. While trying to finish high school, Armpit is hired by a landscaping company and works doing what he does best: digging holes. He also befriends Ginny, a young neighbor with cerebral palsy. Everything seems to be going well for Armpit until his old Camp Green Lake pal, X-Ray, visits him. X-Ray gets Armpit involved in a get-rich-quick scheme, scalping concert tickets to see the latest teen pop sensation, Kaira DeLeon. But is Armpit ready to throw away everything he's worked so hard for? Sachar combines a suspenseful plot with likeable characters to tell this story of friendship and of taking "small steps" to accomplish one's goals.
AGERANGE: Ages 12 to 18.
To quote the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, January 2006: Sachar’s Holes won the National Book Award and the Newbery Medal, among other honors, and YAs, teachers and librarians will be eager for this new novel, which features the character Armpit from Holes. Back home in Austin, TX, two years after his release from Camp Green Lake, Armpit is trying to take “small steps” to get his life back on track, though the only person who seems to believe in him is his 10-year-old neighbor Ginny, who has cerebral palsy. His old friend X-Ray, from Camp Green Lake, involves Armpit in a ticket-scalping scheme, which inadvertently introduces Armpit to the lonely young pop singer Kaira. The encounter changes both their lives, though the course of their relationship is anything but smooth--for one thing, Kaira’s been receiving death threats. Along the way, Sachar makes some poignant points about racial relations (both Armpit and Kaira are African American), the perils of fame, and the importance of taking the right steps, no matter how small they are. This novel can stand on its own, for those who somehow missed Holes; it’s an affecting story, with humorous moments, suspense, and romance, too, and readers will root for the long-suffering Armpit to triumph at last. Reviewer: Paula Rohrlick
March 2008 (Vol. 42, No.2)
Theodore Johnson, aka Armpit to his friends, is an honest, goodhearted, young man whose luck has usually been bad-so bad, in fact, as to land him in Camp Green Lake, a juvenile detention center, for an altercation that was not his fault. After his release from Camp Green Lake, readers find Armpit back home with his family, doing everything he can to swing the balance of events in his life to the good side. He has a steady job as a landscaper, he is saving money, and he is staying out of trouble. It is a boring life, but it is trouble free, until his fellow Green Lake survivor, X-Ray, shows up. X-Ray has a get-rich-quick scheme for which he persuades Armpit to provide the capital. Against his better judgment, Armpit provides the money to buy a number of tickets for the upcoming Kaira DeLeon concert. DeLeon is a sort of BeyoncT Knowles/Britney Spears-type rock star, for whom Armpit has a secret crush. Ticket scalping thrusts Armpit into the middle of a criminal element and logic suggests that he will soon be incarcerated again. But fate plays fair with Armpit this time around, and for every unfortunate action there is an equal and opposite fortunate reaction-and a little romance along the way. Sachar's sequel to Holes (Farrar Straus Giroux, 1998/VOYA December 1998) reads like a long short story that follows intense action over the course of a few days. Armpit is an endearing character, as is Ginny, the disabled ten-year-old next door whom he has befriended. Absence of sex and just a little violence make this book appropriate for most readers ages ten and up. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P M J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined asgrades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2006, Delacorte, 272p., Ages 11 to 18.
This wonderful sequel to Holes begins two years after the closing of Camp Green Lake, as Armpit is trying to take "small steps" toward a new life: graduate from high school, get a job, save money, "avoid situations that might turn violent," and "lose the name Armpit." He is doing all right in his summer school classes, earning praise for his digging skills at a landscaping job, and befriending Ginny, a younger white girl who lives next door, disabled from cerebral palsy. But then his old buddy X-Ray shows up with a supposedly foolproof plan to become rich through scalping tickets for an upcoming concert of teen sensation Kaira DeLeon. All they have to is buy twelve tickets for $55 each and resell them for ten times that much. What could possibly go wrong? Of course, everything could go wrong. Armpit ends up involved in one way or another with a police investigation, a bittersweet first love, an embezzling scheme, a murder plotoh, and an effort to get Ginny's favorite stuffed animal, Coo, elected as ruler of the world. With impeccable pacing, hilarious humor, and surprising pathos, Sachar leaves readers rooting for Armpit's next small steps toward a brighter future. 2006, Delacorte, Ages 10 up.
Claudia Mills, Ph.D.
Gr 5-8-This sequel to Holes (Farrar, 1998) focuses on Armpit, an African-American former resident of Tent D at Camp Green Lake. It's two years after his release, and the 16-year-old is still digging holes, although now getting paid for it, working for a landscaper in his hometown of Austin, TX. He's trying to turn his life around, knowing that everyone expects the worst of him and that he must take small steps to keep moving forward. When X-Ray, his friend and fellow former detainee at the juvenile detention center, comes up with a get-rich-quick scheme involving scalping tickets to a concert by teenage pop star Kaira DeLeon, Armpit fronts X-Ray the money. He takes his best friend and neighbor, Ginny, a 10-year-old with cerebral palsy, to the concert and ends up meeting Kaira, getting romantically involved, and finally becoming a hero by saving her life when her stepfather tries to kill her and frame him. Small Steps has a completely different tone than Holes. It lacks the bizarre landscape, the magical realism, the tall-tale quality, and the heavy irony. Yet, there is still much humor, social commentary, and a great deal of poignancy. Armpit's relationship with Ginny, the first person to care for him, look up to him, and give his life meaning, is a compassionate one. Like Holes, Small Steps is a story of redemption, of the triumph of the human spirit, of self-sacrifice, and of doing the right thing. Sachar is a master storyteller who creates memorable characters.-Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
After a hiatus of some seven years, Sachar returns with a companion to Holes (1998) that places one of Stanley's fellow "campers" on center stage. Armpit is living with his parents in Austin, having set for himself five rehabilitative "small steps:" "1. Graduate from high school. 2. Get a job. 3. Save his money. 4. Avoid situations that may become violent. And 5. Lose the name Armpit." When fellow ex-camper X-Ray persuades him to join him in a scheme scalping tickets for a Kaira DeLeon concert, steps 1-4 are severely threatened-step 5 seeming to be permanently out of reach. Armpit is a genuinely sympathetic character, as is the teen singing phenom Kaira; the third-person narrative shifts focus from one to the other as their paths inexorably, and incredibly, draw closer and closer. If Holes invoked Vonnegut in its narrative complexity and deadpan delivery, this offering more closely resembles more straightforward crime fiction. Although readers may find themselves missing the tricky layers of its predecessor, any novel in which the good guys so righteously win should be happily welcomed in its own right. (Fiction. 12+)
"Louis Sachar is magic to the toughest circle of critics: librarians, children’s booksellers, teachers – and, most of all, kids."
"Sachar’s touch is as deft as ever and the book is a page-turner."
"Mr. Sachar's gentle but surefire approach nails down challenging issues such as racism, teen romance and drugs."
–Dallas Morning News
"Sachar has a talent for creating realistic relationships between unlikely friends. Although that's a staple device of children's literature, it often works by drawing on clichés. Sachar's characters, though, are never stereotypes, but always vividly alive."
–Los Angeles Times
"His prose is clear and relaxed, and funny in a low-key, observant way."
–New York Times
"Part of what makes Small Steps so believable and appealing is that its characters do have insecurities, and they aren’t ashamed to let them show."
"Sachar is a master storyteller who creates memorable characters."
–School Library Journal
"Cleverly wrought…heartwarming, witty and suspenseful."
–Time Out New York Kids
Praise for Louis Sachar’s Holes:
"A dazzling blend of social commentary, tall tale and magic realism."
–Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"A brilliant achievement."
–School Library Journal
"A smart jigsaw puzzle of a novel."
–The New York Times
"Imaginative plotting and memorable characters make this novel a winner."
From the Hardcover edition.