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Holes Hardcover – June 26, 2018
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“Vladimir Radunsky created the artwork for the 1998 hardcover, and another of his striking paintings adorns Farrar, Straus and Giroux's 10th-anniversary edition . . . Wrapped in an acetate jacket, the whole package has a crisp, sparkling appeal. Kid-friendly bonus materials include lighthearted personal perspectives written by Sachar's older brother, daughter, and wife; his Newbery acceptance speech; and several black-and-white photos, mostly taken on the movie set.” ―School Library Journal's Extra Helping
“Stanley Yelnats IV has been wrongly accused of stealing a famous baseball player's valued sneakers and is sent to Camp Green Lake, a juvenile detention home where the boys dig holes, five feet deep by five feet across, in the miserable Texas heat. It's just one more piece of bad luck that's befallen Stanley's family for generations...There is no question, kids will love Holes.” ―Starred, School Library Journal
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Can an entire lake ("the largest lake in Texas" p. 15) dry up in one person's lifetime? Kissing Kate Barlow was a school teacher, already an adult when the lake was full, then as an older adult she is burying treasure in the middle of its dry basin. I'm just sayin. Oh and Trout Walker catches up to her and Sam with a motor boat. Yet years later she's robbing stagecoaches! A bit anachronistic.
Why did Stanley feel he had to lie in his letters to home and make it sound like he was water skiing and having fun when really he was in a slave camp? The explanation is that they wanted to "pretend". Perhaps adults just shouldn't read this book.
Stanley just HAPPENS to be sentenced to dig a whole and he just HAPPENS to find a treasure from an ancestor in an area only 5ft by 5ft within the first few days, and it HAPPENS to have his name on the suitcase? And his new friend just HAPPENS to be the guy that stole the sneakers that put him there! And they survive on the very onions that Sam used to grow. and the "fabulous spiced peaches" (p. 101) of Katherine Barlow! I realize the author is trying to force a circle but it's just not realistic.
A word about Sam whom we learn about in chapter 25. Apparently he was well-respected, "nobody argued with Sam" he ran a successful onion-growing business and the townspeople would come to him for onion remedies. Even the town doctor used Sam's onion-cure for baldness. He was a valued carpenter as well. Yet all it took was a kiss ("it's against the law for a negro to kiss a white woman" p.113) for all hell to break lose: the school house is burned down, a donkey is shot, and Sam is to be hung on a rope without a trial apparently. With kids growing up with stories like these, it's no wonder we don't make much progress.
Why were the guards so loyal to the sadistic Warden? Were they going to get a share of a treasure whose only proof of existence was family lore? And of course all these juvenile delinquents are so nice and don't even curse. I'm sure they were all innocent like Stanley and Zero. Even the car thief "Twitch" was innocent, his criminal record justified as the result of some kind of medical condition: "I never plan to steal one...I'll just start twitching" p. 145.
Katherine Barlow was a respected school teacher. After Sam kisses her, Sam is then murdered for the "crime" in front of her. She never recovers from the shock. She turns into the "famous outlaw" Kissing Kate Barlow, who leaves a lipstick mark on her murder victims and one victim is Stanley's ancestor whom she leaves stranded in a desert to suffer and die. In short, she goes insane. Why is there not more outrage from women readers at this demeaning narrative? A woman who cannot rise up and overcome the lost love of a man, but rather dwells in the same moment for the rest of her life (Mrs. Havisham?), re-enacting the kiss on dead corpses like some necrophiliac! Yes, it's really quite disturbing the more you think about it.
The book is not lengthy and easy to read. Good characters well described. Well written. Not boring. Recommended for all teenagers. Adults can enjoy. I read the book because my son is reading it at school.
Both my boys can be sensitive to darker plots and humor but they both really enjoyed this book - it wasn't too much for them. It's recommended for third grade and up but I found it appropriate for my first and second grader. The only mildly inappropriate instance is when one character says, "What the hell?" I didn't even notice when I was reading it but my first grader was quick to point out at our book club meeting that it was his favorite part - because of the "bad" word. Such a proud parenting moment.
Speaking of book club, this was a great selection for the Intergenerational Book Club (IGBC) at my church. There were kids from first through fifth grade (mostly boys) and all of them enjoyed this book. For snacks we had worms and dirt (made by the kids), doughnut holes, and pumpkin onion cookies. (Onions play an important role in the story.)
Top international reviews
The book is superbly written, with such well-rounded characters that you feel as if you know them as friends. There are many twists along the way, and the two stories that are told simultaneously are beautifully intertwined. The coincidences are a stretch, but it's easy to let that slide, because they are also sheer joy. Louis Sachar knows people, and human relationships are his speciality. The main characters are underdogs with the potential to be great, and as the reader you are urging them forward.
From a teacher point of view, we had a wonderful session that touched on: racism and bullying; the power and potential we may not know we have; the interweaving of two stories that seem very different at first; the naivety of the main character and how he changes through the book; the use of nicknames at the camp, particularly that of Zero. The list was endless, and the kids wanted to talk and talk.
This is a book for the whole family. It will make you laugh and cry. It will make you think about luck, friendship, love and the way these wonderful things provide relief in challenging circumstances. There are many lessons woven in a clever story.
My 10 year old son loved the book and I did as well. Originally I only read it to encourage his reading but fell under the book’s spell. Enjoyable for all ages. It’s now one of my all time favourite books!
A great read and I would recommend to read it.
The plot is flawless. The writing is as near flawless as it comes. The sparsity of the language, with not a word wasted, and with every word being the right word, is a joy to read. I find wordy prose draining. Sachar's words come alive on the page and make this eccentric, engaging, honest, humane, wise and wholly original story real.
Holes has been perfectly written and perfectly edited (if it needed editing), with a pleasing pace - neither slow nor hurried - and great characters. If I were a high school English teacher, I would pick this book for my students. Compelling writing doesn't need to be peppered with verbose descriptions and weak adverbs. I would also recommend it for 'reluctant readers'.
When I think of Holes, I smile.
This is one of them.
The narrative is written in a seemingly simple style - short sentences, simple words. But then you begin to appreciate the skill of the author in creating such an array of vivid characters and beguiling plot. A bit like an allegory from Aesops fables or a classic like 'Catcher in the Rye'.
The core plot is about a poor lad called Stanley Yelnats - he comes from a long line of Stanley Yelnats because the family likes that Yelnats is Stanley backwards.
Through no fault of his own, he finds himself imprisoned in a desert 'camp' that forces the prisoners to dig a large hole every single day in the blistering sun. But the Warden has her own agenda as well, that is linked to Stanley's ancestors and family history.
This family history is skilfully interwoven with the main plot and slowly provides context to Stanley's current circumstance.
Eventually, Stanley shows his true character in the form of heroic deeds to help his friend 'Zero' and the plot lines converge to a satisfying end.
A lovely book that I would highly recommend if you fancy reading something away from the mainstream.
Stanley was a fat boy, but that soon changes. Everyone at Green Lake has a nickname and in Stanley's tent there's X-Ray, Zig-Zag, Squid, Magnet, Armpit and Zero. Zero doesn't speak. There's a pecking-order and Zero is at the bottom of it, even after Stanley arrives (and is given the name Caveman).
This unpromising scenario is totally misleading, for this is a warm, gentle, funny book - even given the miseries practised upon the inmates by some of the guards. When we learn it, the background of Zero's incarceration is heart-breaking. The history of Green Lake, and the history of the Yelnats family are, in fact, deeply connected in events of the past - a donkey named Mary Lou, a field of onions in the distant mountains and an ancestor who slept on God's Thumb - plus the story of Kissing Kate, the fiercest outlaw in this part of the west, all have a part to play in this beautifully constructed and most unusual novella. At 233 pages, this is a short, witty and totally uplifting read.
The "holes" of the title are 5 feet in diameter and five feet deep and one must be dug, in the bed of a dried up lake, by each resident of the camp.
It quickly becomes apparent that there is a lot more to the digging of the holes than the mere punishment/character-building of the camp's residents.
The central character is really well developed as the story progresses, there are two other stories (based on the main characters ancestors) that blend in with the central narrative, and the whole thing rattles along at a good pace. I don't think there was a single dull page in the entire book.
I thought it was a really well executed, well spun tale and I'd definitely recommend it to anyone.