Thursday Review: Holes by Louis Sachar

Okay, so my next few reviews are going to be a bit different because they double as reviews for a class I’m taking on Adolescent Literature. Just a heads up

Holes is a middle grade novel by Louis Sachar that follows the misfortunes of Stanley Yelnats. Stanley’s family was cursed with bad luck generations ago. Incredibly bad luck. Stanley’s bad luck hits its peak when Stanley is walking along and minding his own business one day when a pair of stolen tennis shoes fall from the sky. He’s arrested for theft and sent to Camp Greenlake Juvinile Detention center. Stanley meets a unique set of characters, including (spoilers) the descendent of the woman who cursed his family.
Intertwined with Stanley’s story is the tale of Kissing Kate Barlow, whose tragic love story cursed the land of Camp Green Lake a century ago. The land isn’t green, and there’s no lake. The warden has the boys digging 5 foot by 5 foot holes to “build there character,” and to search for Kate Barlow’s treasure.
It’s an incredibly intricate plot line told in a very simplistic way to engage young readers. This is a fantastic book to use for teaching plot threads, point of view, and proper framing of stories within stories. This would be a fun book to sit down with kids and do one of those “this-happened….and so…” charts. And a class discussion on the ripple-effect after reading this book would be intense. Because the movie is such a faithful adaptation of the book (the changes would only enhance the discussion) there’s also an opportunity to compare the different mediums, which satisfies a variety of state standards.
Another great message for kids is that for all the talk of curses and bad luck, the characters are all incredibly self-motivated go-getters. I think a lot of kids can relate to the feeling of being “cursed.” The sensation that even though you’re trying to do everything right everything goes wrong is common in the drama of middle school. However due to the complete and utter lack of young female characters (the only women in the book are the Warden, Stanley’s mom, and Kate Barlow, all middle aged, all authority figures, and also vastly outnumbered by adult men), I would recommend pairing this novel (or at least following this novel) with something like Inkheart.

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