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by Louis Sachar

Hero: overweight

            People make a lot of assumptions in life.  For example, it's easy for most folks to assume that a fat kid is lazy or that he is a bully, that a small kid is timid and smart.  Stanley Yelnats is fat, but he's no dummy and he's no bully.  He is, however, the victim of a very small bullying child nearly every day he attends school.  And one day, as he is walking beneath an overpass, a pair of sneakers literally fall upon his head and cause him to be a victim of the judicial system as well.  Since his father always needs another set of stinky shoes for his foot deodorizer experiments, Stanley is excited to have a prime pair to give to him. Racing off with the shoes, the police see him running and assume he is up to no good.  Sure enough, the sneakers he is carrying have been reported as stolen.   They are famous footwear belonging to one Clyde "Sweet Feet" Livingston, pro baseball player and Stanley's hero.


        Truly, it's not Stanley's fault that he is sentenced to attend a juvenile delinquents hard labor camp.  According to his family it's all because of his no good, dirty, rotten, pig stealing great great grandfather whose family, had he done what a gypsy woman once directed him to do, never would have been so cursed.


        While at camp Stanley has to get along with some truly rough bullies, and he has to dig a 5 x 5 hole every day in the baking hot sun while avoiding poisonous lizards, snakes, spiders, and the cruel camp staff.  But for all the faculty talk that digging holes builds character, there's a distinct undercurrent that something else is going on.  The warden is looking for something out there in the desert, something clearly important.  


        And maybe, just maybe, if Stanley is the one to find it, it will be his ticket out of there.    


What worked for me:


            This well-balanced story deftly interweaves threads from the Yelnats family's past and present to keep the reader entranced and guessing.  And if that isn't enough, the characters are very sympathetic; the reader would stick with the book just to find out how things turned out for them. (And to find out how the bad guys got theirs in the end.) For me as a writer, "Holes" comes under the "I wish I had written that!" heading.


            Size-wise Stanley was heavy and out of shape at the beginning of the story, but hard labor and minimal food trimmed him down and toughened him up a bit.


What didn't work for me:


            The only problem I had with reading this story was that I didn't actually read it myself.  I listened in as my husband read a few pages of it to our boys each night at bedtime.  This meant I had to wait weeks to find out what happened because he wouldn't let me read ahead!



             Highly recommended to readers of all ages!


If you liked "Holes" you might also enjoy "Saviors of the Bugle".


Note: this book has been made into a movie.  The cinematography, setting, and casting were all terrific in this novel-turned-film. However, the characters and story understandably suffered from being cut down into feature film length. The main character is no longer fat, and indeed we do not know about his being picked on at school either.

But despite trimming out a great deal of the novel and adding in a few new pieces, it still is a terrific story and transferred very well to visual format. Our boys loved it, but reading the book first definitely helped to flesh things out. I suggest you do the same.


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