Stanley Yelnats IV is not a bad kid. He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time which happened to lead to him getting arrested. In fact, all of the Stanley Yelnats right back to the first had a knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time and just being all around unlucky. Each Stanley Yelnats knows exactly where that unfortunate knack comes from. It comes directly from Stanley’s no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing great-great-grandfather.
But most people don’t believe too much in curses that stem from stolen pigs. They also don’t believe Stanley when he proclaims his innocence. Arrested and found guilty, Stanley is given a choice: go to jail or go to Camp Green Lake. Stanley had never been to camp before.
But Camp Green Lake isn’t like a regular camp. This isn’t a girl scout camp. Camp Green Lake is a camp for bad boys. There used to be a lake and a town by the camp, but they disappeared long ago. Now there are only yellow-spotted lizards and heat. And holes.
The theory is that 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. So Stanley and the other campers dig.
But the more Stanley digs, the more he starts to wonder. What are the holes for? What could be buried by the non-existent lake? What starts as a search for answers might lead to a journey that will break the Yelnats curse once and for all in Holes (1998) by Louis Sachar.
Holes was the 1998 Newbery medal winner for its “distinguished contribution to American literature for children.” It is also, it must be said, strikingly similar in style and theme to Maniac Magee, the 1991 Newbery winner.
Sachar takes what could potentially be a bleak, mirthless story and instead delivers a darkly funny, intensely exciting one. It may seem that a story about boys digging holes would have little in the way of action. Far from it, Holes is filled with entwined storylines, witty dialogue, intrigue, and even some near-death experiences and commentary on discrimination.
If you enjoy Holes (as I’m sure you will), be sure to check out the movie adaptation (Spinelli had a hand in the screenplay and Shia Labeouf played Stanley) and the sequel Small Steps (featuring Armpit and Xray).
Possible Pairings: Incarceron by Catherine Fisher, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, The View From Saturday by E. L. Konigsburg, Count Karlstein by Phillip Pullman, The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, Small Steps by Louis Sachar, Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli, Holes (movie version)
Sound good? Find it on Amazon: Holes