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Kathleen Karr (Children's Literature)
Because of a curse placed on his no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather, Stanley Yelnats finds himself at Camp Green Lake, a residence for juvenile offenders. Overweight and unlucky, Stanley tries to do his best to fit in and to excel at the camp's one activity: digging holes. Yes, holes. Holes precisely five feet deep by five feet wide all across the godforsaken desert landscape of a dried-out Texas lake. How holes become Stanley's salvation is the meat of this quirky, brink-of-surreal story that believably floats between past lives and present realities. Sachar's earlier "Wayside School" stories always had a Pinkwaterish edge to them, but in Holes he comes fully, brilliantly into his own voice. This is a can't-put-it-down read. Winner of the 1999 Newbery Medal and the National Book Award. 1998, Frances Foster/Farrar Straus & Giroux, $16.00. Ages 10 up.
CCBC (Cooperative Children's Book Center Choices, 1998)
In this age of gloom and doom in children's fiction, it's refreshing to find a truly funny book for kids. Sachar's over-the-top satire has depth, originality and loads of child appeal. Poor Stanley Yelnats is convinced he'll never get ahead in life due to a curse brought on his family by his "no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather." Falsely charged with the theft of a pair of valuable sneakers, Stanley is sent to a juvenile detention camp where he is forced, day after day, to dig a hole that's exactly five feet across and five feet deep. Sound grim? It is! But what makes this funny is Stanley's understated, deadpan description of the camp, the people in charge of it (Mr. Sir, Mr. Pedanski, and The Warden), the other delinquents (Zero, Zigzag, Armpit, X-Ray, Magnet, and Squid), and how their story fits together with the historical events which led to his family's infamous curse. The intricacy of the plot, eccentricity of the characters, and overall absurdity of the story reminds us of the novels of Ellen Raskin (The Westing Game; Figgs & Phantoms). Just beneath the surface of this entertaining tale, however, is a more serious statement about the enduring power of friendship and loyalty when the odds are stacked against you -- curse or no curse. Winner, 1998 CCBC Newbery Discussion. CCBC categories: Fiction for Children. 1998, A Frances Foster Book / Farrar Straus Giroux, 233 pages, $16.00. Ages 10-14.
Kirkus (Kirkus Reviews, 1998)
Sentenced to a brutal juvenile detention camp for a crime he didn't commit, a wimpy teenager turns four generations of bad family luck around in this sunburnt tale of courage, obsession, and buried treasure from Sachar (Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger, 1995, etc.). Driven mad by the murder of her black beau, a schoolteacher turns on the once-friendly, verdant town of Green Lake, Texas, becomes feared bandit Kissin' Kate Barlow, and dies, laughing, without revealing where she buried her stash. A century of rainless years later, lake and town are memories--but, with the involuntary help of gangs of juvenile offenders, the last descendant of the last residents is still digging. Enter Stanley Yelnats IV, great-grandson of one of Kissin' Kate's victims and the latest to fall to the family curse of being in the wrong place at the wrong time; under the direction of The Warden, a woman with rattlesnake venom polish on her long nails, Stanley and each of his fellow inmates dig a hole a day in the rock-hard lake bed. Weeks of punishing labor later, Stanley digs up a clue, but is canny enough to conceal the information of which hole it came from. Through flashbacks, Sachar weaves a complex net of hidden relationships and well-timed revelations as he puts his slightly larger-than-life characters under a sun so punishing that readers will be reaching for water bottles. Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this rugged, engrossing adventure. 1998, Farrar Straus & Giroux, $16.00. © 1998 Kirkus Reviews/VNU eMedia, Inc. All rights reserved.
Publishers Weekly (Publishers Weekly)
This wry and loopy novel about a camp for juvenile delinquents in a dry Texas desert (once the largest lake in the state) by the author of There's a Boy in the Girls' Bathroom and the Wayside School series has some serious undercurrents. Stanley Yelnats (appropriately enough for a story about reversals, the protagonist's name is a palindrome) gets sent to Camp Green Lake to do penance, "a camp for bad boys." Never mind that Stanley didn't commit the crime he has been convicted of--he blames his bad luck on his "no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather." He digs five-foot-deep holes with all the other "bad" boys under the baleful direction of the Warden, perhaps the most terrifying female since Big Nurse. Just when it seems as though this is going to be a weird YA cross between One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Cool Hand Luke, the story takes off--along with Stanley, who flees camp after his buddy Zero--in a wholly unexpected direction to become a dazzling blend of social commentary, tall tale and magic realism. Readers (especially boys) will likely delight in the larger-than-life (truly Texas-style) manner in which Sachar fills in all the holes, as he ties together seemingly disparate story threads to dispel ghosts from the past and give everyone their just deserts. Ages 12-up. (Sept.)
Katherine Barr (The ALAN Review, Fall 1999 (Vol. 27, No. 1))
Found guilty of stealing a pair of sneakers that were to be auctioned off to raise money for the homeless, Stanley Yelnats is sent to Camp Green Lake, a correctional facility in an old lakebed that is now desert. He realizes that although the warden claims that digging builds character, the boys in the facility are actually looking for something in these holes. The key to this mystery is hidden in the relationship between Stanley's family and that of the Zeroni family, a tale that goes back four generations to Latvia when Stanley's great-great-grandfather broke a promise to Madame Zeroni. Hector Zeroni and Stanley meet at the camp, find themselves pitted against the warden and the other boys, and help each other survive in the desert thereby breaking Madame Zerone's curse on the Yelnats family. Although the outcome might be guessed, Sachar creates a suspenseful tale that keeps the reader cheering for Stanley and Hector as the boys overcome each obstacle in their path, including a crazed warden searching for treasure and the poisonous, yellow-spotted lizards living in holes in the desert. Holes won the 1999 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Excellence in Children's Literature in the fiction category. 1998, Farrar Straus and Giroux, 233 pages, $16.00. Ages 10 up.
Deborah Stevenson (The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, September 1998 (Vol. 52, No. 1))
Stanley Yelnats (yes, that's a palindrome) is sent to Camp Green Lake Juvenile Correctional Facility for a crime he didn't actually commit. Once there, he discovers that the inmates' days are spent digging holes out in the Texas desert, with the bait of getting a day off if they find something the Warden considers "interesting or unusual." Stanley forms a bond with an expert hole-digger named Zero, whom he teaches to read, and when Zero runs away into the desert, Stanley, after initial hesitation, follows him. The two boys then struggle for survival, aided by lore and leftovers from their ancestors, who sowed the seeds for the drama that's being enacted now. This reads much more clearly than it explains: Sachar has cunningly crafted his fiction, precisely placing snippets of historical backstory within the chronicle of Stanley's travails, so that the focus of the book is the coming together and resolving of the manifold strands of karma (including Stanley's no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing great-great-grandfather, the feared nineteenth-century bandit Kissin' Kate Barlow, a cheated gypsy, a gentle onion fancier, and more). Sachar's dry, wry tone assists in making the book's aim something other than gritty realism; though there is indeed wicked villainy and triumphant virtue, the point is less the struggle of the individual characters than their place in the working out of the larger pattern. Though this isn't as much a puzzle book as Raskin's The Westing Game, readers who appreciated that book's detailed construction as much as its story will enjoy watching Stanley's saga unfold and fold together again. (Reviewed from galleys) Review Code: R -- Recommended. (c) Copyright 1998, The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. 1998, Foster/Farrar, 240p, $16.00. Grades 5-8.
Stephen Fraser (The Five Owls, March/April 1999 (Vol. 13, No. 4))
Louis Sachar is the author of such popular books as the Marvin Redpost chapter-book series and the excellent novel The Boy Who Lost His Face--but he is probably best known for his Sideways Stories from Wayside School and its sequels. He is a writer of dead-on honest books that are accessible and fun. Holes, his latest book, has received both the 1998 National Book Award for Young People's Literature and the 1999 Newbery Medal. It is the humorous tale of Stanley Yelnats (his name is a palindrome), who is sent to a correctional facility in Texas for a crime he didn't commit. Stanley is accused of stealing a pair of sneakers belonging to a famous baseball player who had donated his shoes to a fundraising event for the homeless. What actually happened is that Stanley was walking innocently under an overpass, when the sneakers fell on his head. It seems ever since Stanley's great-great-grandfather stole a pig and was cursed by a gypsy, the family has always been unlucky. And now, Stanley IV is at Camp Green Lake. Stanley is immediately put to work digging holes in the ground. They dig holes five feet deep and five feet wide all over the yard, creating a bleak lunar setting. This is a colorful group of young men, with names like Zero, Zig Zag, X-Ray, and Armpit. The Warden is a tough, desperate woman who wears red fingernail polish laced with rattlesnake venom; the boy's supervisor, Mr. Pendanski (whom the boys call "Mom"), tells Stanley, "You're digging to build character." One of the satisfying elements of this remarkable book is the friendship that develops between Stanley and Zero. Stanley teaches Zero to read--and Zero, in turn, uses his expert hole-digging skills to help his friend. Zero is no zero; the sheer joy of learning makes his given nickname echo ever more dully. When he disappears into the Texas desert, Stanley bolts from Camp to find him. What unfolds is a Dickensian tale with a satisfyingly round finale: family curses, lizards, buried treasure, friendship, comeuppances--this book has it all. Holes is a story even the most reluctant readers will enjoy, with the sarcastic humor that readers have come to expect from Louis Sachar. But it has something else--writing so good that you wouldn't want to change a single word. It is, in fact, a perfect book--one that brings the level of children's books up several notches, and a story that young readers will devour for the pure pleasure of it. 1998, Farrar Straus and Giroux, 5-1/4 x 8-1/4, 240 pages, $16.00. Ages 12 up.
Mary Ann Capan (VOYA, December 1998 (Vol. 21, No. 5))
Stanley Yelnats, an underprivileged teen, is wrongly convicted of stealing. Faced with the choice between going to jail or attending Camp Green Lake, Stanley eagerly chooses the camp (something he has never experienced before). When he arrives, Stanley discovers that this juvenile detention center is neither green nor wet--it is in the middle of a desert. The center becomes Stanley's temporary home where he and others live under the most primitive conditions. Seven days a week, each detainee must dig a hole in the dried-up lake bed, five feet wide and five feet deep. According to the warden this builds character, but as the story unfolds, Stanley learns that they are not just digging to find themselves. When one of the boys runs away, Stanley goes after him. At the same time, this fast-paced book also tells the story of Stanley's family from generations ago. By the end, the reader comes to understand how the two stories are intertwined and ultimately resolved because of Stanley's courage and selflessness. This delightfully clever story is well-crafted and thought-provoking, with a bit of a folklore thrown in for good measure. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P M J (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 1998, Farrar, 235p., $16.00. Ages 11 to 15.
|Language||Call Number||LCCN||Dewey Decimal||ISBN/ISSN|
|English (eng)||PZ7.S1185 Ho 1998