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Craig's Book Club
Book Reviews

Spotlight on: Holes by Louis Sachar


To arrange to have products considered for review, send an email to craigsbookclub@yahoo.com.


Holes by Louis Sachar Louis Sachar, Holes

Stanley Yelnats has to go to Camp Green Lake after he is convicted unfairly of a crime: the theft of baseball legend Clyde Livingston’s smelly (but valuable) used sneakers. Camp Green Lake isn't green, though, or anywhere near a lake. Instead, it is a hot, dusty place, pocked by huge holes as far as the eye can see; a place where each boy is required to add a new hole every day, as deep and as wide as his shovel (about five feet). This is labeled as "character building" and the Warden wants to know if any of the boys finds anything "interesting" while digging. Some boys have gotten the day off for finding the right things.

Stanley's name is a palindrome (he is the fourth in his family to carry it), but none of the boys at Camp Green Lake goes by his real name. The boys in the Group D tent (Stanley’s group) have monikers like X-Ray, Zero, Magnet, and Armpit, and Stanley is soon styled "Caveman."

New days bring new trials, coming in the form of poisonous yellow-spotted lizards, the venom-laced fingernails of the female Warden, or the snide comments of Mr. Pendanski ("pen-dance-key") among others. It would simply be unfair, if it weren't that bad luck has plagued the Yelnats family for generations, ever since Stanley’s "no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather," Elya, did not fulfill a promise made to a Gypsy woman, and she cursed him.

Author Louis Sachar has a breezy style that makes this Newbery Award-winner a joy to read. Given the number of subplots that the reader is required to follow, the book is surprisingly easy to follow, but this is a perceived simplicity. After some time, it becomes apparent that Holes is considerably more complex in structure and concept that it originally appears. Multiple stories are told in parallel and, as they progress, are shown to be very similar, with many of the characters tying together in a literary web and all the loose ends coming together cleanly at the conclusion. This realization was the high point for me, showing that a book can be ambitious and fun at the same time. As soon as I was finished, I wanted to start over again from the beginning.

This review originally appeared in somewhat different form in The Gardner News. Copyright 2005.


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