Holes

by Louis Sachar (1999)

Newbery Medal-winning Holes is a rich, complex book that has already engaged a generation of readers. It is sure to provide a wealth of spirited discussion and fun activities when you read it school-wide.

At its heart, Holes is the story of Stanley Yelnats, a boy wrongly accused of a crime and sentenced to spend a summer at the mysterious Camp Green Lake where the theory is, “If you take a bad boy and make him dig a hole every day in the hot sun, it will turn him into a good boy.”

Stanley is a resourceful young man with a good heart. He adapts to these trying circumstances and demonstrates not only fortitude but also sympathy and support for those around him – especially the most picked-on boy at Camp Green Lake, a lad nicknamed “Zero.”

But Holes has a lot more to offer beyond this charming friendship. In Holes, we follow multiple plotlines and mysteries. There is the mystery of the stolen sneakers. The mystery of a “no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing great-great-grandfather.” The mystery of the treasure supposedly buried at Camp Green Lake. The mystery of the maniacal warden. And the mystery of the notorious outlaw Kissin’ Kate Barlow.

Author Louis Sachar deftly weaves all of these mysteries together to propel the novel forward at a brisk pace. The mysteries finally converge in a thrilling and satisfying conclusion where the good guys win through unexpected ways.

Students and families reading Holes together will get to share Stanley’s dilemmas as he confronts of the likes of Mr. Sir and Mr. Pendanski and the mysterious warden. They will strategize together as he befriends the seemingly hapless Zero. And they will thrill in the action-packed conclusion as Stanley and Zero pursue and resolve the layered mysteries at the core of Holes – including wild onions and yellow-spotted lizards! As Zero tells us, “When you spend your whole life living in a hole, the only way you can go is up.”

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