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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

This winner of the Newbery Medal and the National Book Award features Stanley Yelnats, a kid who is under a curse. A curse that began with his no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather and has since followed generations of Yelnats. Now Stanley has been unjustly sent to a boys' detention center, Camp Green Lake, where the warden makes the boys "build character" by spending all day, every day, digging holes five feet wide and five feet deep. It doesn't take long for Stanley to realize there's more than character improvement going on at Camp Green Lake: the warden is looking for something. Stanley tries to dig up the truth in this inventive and darkly humorous tale of crime and punishment—and redemption.

Excerpt

Stanley Yelnats was the only passenger on the bus, not counting the driver or the guard. The guard sat next to the driver with his seat turned around facing Stanley. A rifle lay across his lap.

Stanley was sitting about ten rows back, handcuffed to his armrest. His backpack lay on the seat next to him. It contained his toothbrush, toothpaste, and a box of stationary his mother had given him. He’d promised to write to her at least once a week.

He looked out the window, although there wasn’t much to see—mostly fields of hay and cotton. He was on a long bus ride to nowhere. The bus wasn’t air-conditioned, and the hot heavy air was almost as stifling as the handcuffs.

Stanley and his parents had tried to pretend that he was just going away to camp for a while, just like rich kids do. When Stanley was younger he used to play with stuffed animals, and pretend the animals were at camp. Camp Fun and Games he called it. Sometimes he’d have them play soccer with a marble. Other times they’d run an obstacle course, or go bungee jumping off a table, tied to broken rubber bands. Now Stanley tried to pretend he was going to Camp Fun and Games. Maybe he’d make some friends, he thought. At least he’d get to swim in the lake.

He didn’t have any friends at home. He was overweight and the kids at his middle school often teased him about his size. Even his teachers sometimes made cruel comments without realizing it. On his last day of school, his math teacher, Mrs. Bell, taught ratios. As an example, she chose the heaviest kid in the class and the lightest kid in the class, and had them weigh themselves. Stanley weighed three times as much as the other boy. Mrs. Bell wrote the ratio on the board, 3:1, unaware of how much embarrassment she had caused both of them.
Stanley was arrested later that day.
He looked at the guard who sat slumped in his seat and wondered of he had fallen asleep. The guard was wearing sunglasses, so Stanley couldn’t see his eyes.

Stanley was not a bad kid. He was innocent of the crime for which he was convicted. He’d just been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

It was all because of his no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather!
He smiled. It was a family joke. Whenever anything went wrong, they always blamed Stanley’s no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather!

Supposedly, he had a great-great-grandfather who had stolen a pig from one-legged Gypsy, and she put a curse on him and all his descendants. Stanley and his parents didn’t believe in curses, of course, but whenever anything went wrong, it felt good to be able to blame someone.

Things went wrong a lot. They always seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
He looked out the window at the vast emptiness. He watched the rise and fall of a telephone wire. In his mind he could hear his father’s gruff voice softly singing to him.


“If only, if only,” the woodpecker sighs,
“The bark on the tree was just a little bit softer.”
“While the wolf waits below, hungry and lonely,
He cries to the moo–oo–oon,
“If only, if only.”

It was a song his father used to sing to him. The melody was sweet and sad, but Stanley’s favorite part was when his father would howl the word “moon”.

The bus hit a small bump and the guard sat up, instantly alert.

Stanley’s father was an inventor. To be a successful inventor you need three things: intelligence, perseverance, and just a little bit of luck.

Stanley’s father was smart and had a lot of perseverance. Once he started a project he would work on it for years, often going days without sleep. He just never had any luck.

Every time an experiment failed, Stanley could hear him cursing his dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather.

Stanley’s father was also named Stanley Yelnats. Stanley’s father’s full name was Stanley Yelnats III. Our Stanley is Stanley Yelnats IV.

Everyone in his family had always liked the fact that “Stanley Yelnats” was spelled the same frontward and backward. So they kept naming their sons Stanley. Stanley was an only child, as was every other Stanley Yelnats before him.

All of them had something else in common. Despite their awful luck, they always remained hopeful. As Stanley’s father liked to say, “ I learned from failure.”

But perhaps that was part of the curse as well. If Stanley and his father weren’t always hopeful, then it wouldn’t hurt so much every time their hopes were crushed.

“Not every Stanley Yelnats has been a failure,” Stanley’s mother often pointed out, whenever Stanley or his father became so discouraged that they actually started to believe in the curse. The first Stanley Yelnats, Stanley’s great-grandfather, had made a fortune in the stock market. “He couldn’t have been too unlucky.”

At such times she neglected to mention the bad luck that befell the first Stanley Yelnats. He lost his entire fortune when he was moving from New York to California. His stagecoach was robbed by the outlaw Kissin' Kate Barlow.

If it weren’t for that, Stanley’s family would now be living in a mansion on a beach in California. Instead, they were crammed in a tiny apartment that smelled of burning rubber and foot odor.

“If only, if only….

The apartment smelled the way it did because Stanley’s father was trying to invent a way to recycle old sneakers. “The first person who finds a use for old sneakers, “ he said, “will be a very rich man.”

It was this lastest project that led to Stanley’s arrest.
The bus ride became increasingly bumpy because the road was no longer paved.

Actually, Stanley had been impressed when he first found out that is great-grandfather was robbed by Kissin’ Kate Barlow. True, he would have preferred living on the beach in California, but it was still kind of cool to have someone in your family robbed by a famous outlaw.

Kate Barlow didn’t actually kiss Stanley’s great-grandfather. That would have been really cool, but she only kissed the men she killed. Instead, she robbed him and left him stranded in the middle of the desert.

“He was lucky to have survived,” Stanley’s mother was quick to point out.

The bus was slowing down. The guard grunted as he stretched out his arms.

“Welcome Camp Green Lake,” said the driver.

Stanley looked out the dirty window. He couldn’t see a lake.

And hardly anything was green.
Louis Sachar

About Louis Sachar

Louis Sachar - Holes

Photo © Perry Hagopian

Newbery Award–winning author Louis Sachar is the creator of the entertaining Marvin Redpost books as well as the much-loved There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom, winner of 17 child-voted state awards.

Louis Sachar’s book Holes, winner of the 1999 Newbery Medal, the National Book Award, and the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award, is also an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, an ALA Quick Pick, an ALA Notable Book, and was made into a major motion picture.

A Few Words From Louis Sachar
Of all the characters from Holes, why did you choose to revisit Armpit in SMALL STEPS?
LS: I tend to write about underdogs. It seemed to me that life would be tough for an African-American teenager from a low-income family with a criminal record. Especially someone stuck with the name, "Armpit."
Although this new book is about a character from Holes, the two books are very different. How would you explain to a fan of Holes what to expect from SMALL STEPS?
LS: I can't. I'm no good at describing my books. Holes has been out now for seven years, and I still can't come up with a good answer when asked what that book is about.
Could you imagine future novels about any of the other boys?
Do you think about what Stanley is up to now?
LS: I don't think too much about Stanley or Zero. I left them in a good place. Although money doesn't bring happiness, or give meaning to someone's life, the problems Stanley and Zero face now (and I'm sure they do face many problems) are less interesting than those faced by someone like Armpit.
Plenty of teenagers fantasize about what it would be like to be a young rock star.
You portray it as lonely. Tell us about that decision.
LS: The media tends to portray the teenage world as one where drinking and sex is taken for granted. In fact, I think most teenagers don't drink, are unsure of themselves, and feel awkward around members of the opposite sex. I thought it was important to show Kaira, a rock star no less, as such a person. Her situation, in many ways, is made more difficult as she has no social contact with anyone her age. She is trapped in a world of agents, record producers, and hanger-ons.
I'm imagining that off all the books you've written, Holes is the one that has changed your life the most. Not only did it win the Newbery Medal, it's also simply a popular sensation. Is this assessment accurate? What is this novel's continuing impact on your life? Would you consider it the book that you are proudest of?
LS: Not counting Small Steps, I think Holes is my best book, in terms of plot, and setting, and the way the story revealed itself. It hasn't changed my life, other than that I have more money than I did before I wrote it. I'm still too close to Small Steps to compare it to Holes.
Why do you typically write only two hours each day?
LS: Small steps. Every time I start a new novel it seems like an impossible undertaking. If I tried to do too much too quickly, I would get lost and feel overwhelmed. I have to go slow, and give things a chance to take form and grow.



PRAISE

THE BOY WHO LOST HIS FACE
“Readers will empathize with David’s troubles and cheer his triumph in this delightful, funny book.”—Publishers Weekly


DOGS DON’T TELL JOKES
“Readers will laugh at Gary’s good jokes and groan at his clunkers while they cheer his transformation from goon to legitimate comedian.”—Booklist


HOLES

—A Newbery Medal Winner
—A National Book Award for Young People’s Literature Award Winner
—A Boston Globe–Horn Book Award Winner for Fiction
—An ALA Best Book for Young Adults
—An ALA Notable Children’s Book
—An ALA Quick Pick
—A Bulletin Blue Ribbon Book
—A Horn Book Fanfare
—A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
—A Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year
—A New York Times Book Review Notable Children’s Book of the Year

“We haven’t seen a book with this much plot, so suspensefully and expertly deployed, in too long a time. . . . Louis Sachar has long been a great and deserved favorite among children, despite the benign neglect of critics. But Holes is witness to its own theme: what goes around, comes around. Eventually.”—Starred, The Horn Book Magazine

“A multitude of colorful characters coupled with the skillful braiding of ethnic folklore, American legend, and contemporary issues is a brilliant achievement. There is no question, kids will love Holes.”—Starred, School Library Journal


MARVIN REDPOST: WHY PICK ON ME?
“The hilarious portrayal of grade-school relationships has tremendous child appeal.”—The Horn Book Magazine


MARVIN REDPOST: IS HE A GIRL?
“Sachar writes for beginning readers with a comic simplicity that is never banal. Here he gets a lot of fun out of the identity confusion, and kids will love the frankness about grade-school gender wars and social taboos.”—Booklist


MARVIN REDPOST: ALONE IN HIS TEACHER’S HOUSE
“Sachar’s finely tuned sense of how children think and feel make this fourth book about Marvin and his comic misadventures entertaining.”—The Horn Book Magazine


MARVIN REDPOST: A FLYING BIRTH DAY CAKE?
“Clipped sentences and short paragraphs are not only just right for new readers, they’re just right for the story-a smart, funny mist on the new-kid theme, reminding us that everyone feels alienated at one time or another.”—The Horn Book Magazine


THERE’S A BOY IN THE GIRLS’ BATHROOM
“A humorous and immensely appealing story.”—Kirkus Reviews

Praise | Awards

Praise

A New York Public Library's 100 Great Children's Books 100 Years selection

"A dazzling blend of social commentary, tall tale and magic realism."
--Publishers Weekly, Starred

"There is no question, kids will love Holes."--School Library Journal, Starred

Awards

WINNER 1999 ALA Notable Children's Book
WINNER 1999 ALA Best Books for Young Adults
WINNER 1999 ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers
NOMINEE 2001 Arizona Young Readers Award
WINNER 2000 Colorado Blue Spruce Young Adult Book Award
WINNER 2002 Florida Sunshine State Book Award
WINNER 2001 Hawaii Nene Award
WINNER 2002 Illinois Rebecca Caudill Young Readers Award
WINNER 2001 Kansas William White Award
WINNER 2000 Maine Student Book Award
WINNER 2001 Maryland Black-Eyed Susan Award
WINNER 2001 Massachusetts Children's Book Award
WINNER 2001 Missouri Mark Twain Award
WINNER 2001 New Jersey Garden State Teen Book Award
WINNER 2001 New Mexico Land of Enchantment Book Award
WINNER 2000 North Dakota Flicker Tale Children's Book Award
WINNER 2001 Ohio Buckeye Children's Book Award
WINNER 2001 Oklahoma Sequoyah Children's Book Award
WINNER 2002 Pacific Northwest Young Readers Choice Award
WINNER 2000 Pennsylvania Keystone State Reading Association Book Award
WINNER 2000 Tennessee Volunteer State Book Award
WINNER 2000 Texas Lone Star Reading List
WINNER 2000 Vermont Dorothy Canfield Fischer Book Award
WINNER 2001 Washington Evergreen Young Adult Book Award
WINNER 2001 Wisconsin Golden Archer Book Award
WINNER 2001 Wyoming Indian Paintbrush Award
WINNER 2000 Kentucky Bluegrass Award
WINNER 1999 Newbery Medal Winner
WINNER 2000 Massachusetts Children's Book Award
WINNER 2001 North Dakota Flicker Tale Children's Book Award
WINNER 1999 Texas Lone Star Reading List
WINNER Pennsylvania Young Readers Choice Award
WINNER South Dakota Prairie Pasque Award
WINNER 2012 Scholastic Parent & Child 100 Greatest Books for Kids
WINNER 2012 TimeOutNewYorkKids.com 50 Best Books for Kids
NOMINEE New York State Three Apples Award
Teachers Guide

Teacher's Guide



ABOUT THIS BOOK

In this funny yet poignant story, a boy embarks on a personal journey that changes his life, as he spends the summer paying for a crime he didn't commit.

Stanley Yelnats, falsely arrested for stealing a pair of sneakers, is sentenced to serve time at Camp Green Lake, a juvenile detention facility in the middle of a Texas desert. Having never attended summer camp, Stanley naively believes this to be a new opportunity. He is soon faced with a group of unhappy, unaccepting campers (inmates) and an evil warden who uses the boys to dig holes in search of buried treasure.

As the summer progresses, Stanley makes some startling discoveries about himself, the true meaning of friendship, and the ancient curse that has haunted his family for generations. In a parallel story about Stanley's "no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather," the mystery of the curse is unveiled and Stanley, in his efforts to help a friend, suddenly finds himself in control of his own destiny and the fate of his unlucky family.

ABOUT THIS AUTHOR

"I never talk about a book until it is finished. It took me a year and a half to write Holes, and I never told anyone anything about it during all that time. I do this for a variety of reasons, but mainly motivation. By not allowing myself to talk about it, the only way I can let it out, is to finish writing it.

"I write five or six drafts of each book. I start with a small idea, and it grows as I write. My ideas come to me while I'm write. The story changes greatly during the first few drafts. By the time a book is finished, it is impossible for me to say how I got the various ideas.

"I was born March 20, 1954, in East Meadow, New York. My father worked on the 78th floor of the Empire State Building. When I was nine, we moved to Tustin, California.

"I went to college at the University of California, as Berkeley. During my last year there, I helped out at an elementary school–Hillside School. It was my experience there that led to my first book, Sideways Stories from Wayside School, which I wrote in 1976.

"I attended Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco and graduated in 1980. I worked part-time as a lawyer for eight years as I continued to write children's books.

TEACHING IDEAS

Holes is really two stories: one chronicles the unfortunate life of Stanley Yelnats and the other is a tall tale about Stanley's great-great-grandfather who meets his fate when he encounters Kissing Kate Barlow, a feared outlaw of the Wild West. Sachar's success at blending outlandish humor with poignant and heartwarming scenes makes this book ideal for reading aloud and for a novel study. Students will find satisfaction in the ending and celebrate the fact that the good guys win.

A sense of self, belonging, courage, and friendship are important themes to explore. Ideas and activities for interdisciplinary connections include the language arts, social studies, science, math, and arts curriculum.

Pre-Reading Activity

Have the class research juvenile detention centers in their state. Ask them to investigate the purpose of a juvenile detention center. How does the state work to rehabilitate juvenile offenders? What is the purpose of a probation officer? How is it determined whether a juvenile can be tried as an adult?

Thematic Connections

Belonging
Stanley is overweight and considered a misfit by the boys in his school and neighborhood. Ask students to discuss why Stanley is an easy target for bullies. At what point in the novel does Stanley begin feeling that he is a part of the group? Who is the leader? How do the guys view Stanley at the end of the novel? How might Stanley be considered a hero? Involve the class in a discussion about how Stanley's heroic status might change the way his classmates view him when he returns to school in the fall.

Sense of Self
Ask students to make a list of the campers and their nicknames. Discuss the significance of each boy's nickname. Why is Stanley called "Caveman"? How can nicknames "label" people and affect the way they feel about themselves? How does Stanley's self-concept change as the story progresses? Why does Stanley call Zero by his real name when they are in the desert together? Engage the class in a discussion about how Stanley and Zero help one another gain a more positive sense of self.

Courage
Ask the class to define courage. When does Stanley begin to show courage? Have students chart Stanley's courageous acts (e.g., stealing the truck). Which other campers might be considered courageous? What gives Stanley the courage to search for Zero? Discuss which characters in the parallel story demonstrate courage. Ask students to prepare questions they would most like to ask Stanley about his newly developed courage. How might Stanley answer their questions?

Friendship
Stanley never had a friend before arriving at Camp Green Lake. Ask students to trace the development of Stanley's friendship with Zero. What are each boy's contributions to the friendship? When Stanley finds out that Zero is the person who stole the Clyde Livingston sneakers, he feels glad that Zero put the sneakers on the parked car. Explore why.

Interdisciplinary Connections

Science
Stanley's father is an inventor. Although it is said that an inventor must have intelligence, perseverance, and a lot of luck, Stanley's father never seems to have such luck. Have students research inventors such as Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, and the Wright brothers. How did luck play a role in their inventions?

Write a brief article for Science News about "Sploosh," the product to eliminate foot odor, invented by Stanley's father. Have students include comments from Mr. Yelnats that indicate that he has intelligence, perseverance, and finally a little luck.

Math
Zero cannot read, but he is excellent in math. Have each student survey at least 20 adults asking them whether their strength in school was reading or math. Collect the data gathered by each student and have the class construct a graph that reveals the results of the survey. Study the graph and engage the class in a discussion about the importance of both subjects.

Music
Play recordings of several ballads for the class. Ask them to compare and contrast a musical ballad and a tall tale. Divide the class into small groups. Have each pick one character from the book and write the lyrics for a ballad about that character. Ask groups to perform their ballad for the entire class.

Creative Drama/Theater
Stage a talk show with Stanley and Zero as the guests. Have the other boys from Camp Green Lake surprise them by coming on the show. What would the boys say to Stanley and Zero? What might Stanley, Zero, and the others say about the closing of Camp Green Lake? Ask Stanley to share what he learned most from his experiences there.

Careers
Stanley has always wanted to be an FBI agent. Find out the training that Stanley would need to accomplish his dream. What other types of law enforcement careers could Stanley investigate?


Teaching ideas prepared by Pat Scales, Director of Library Services. the South Carolina Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities, Greenville, South Carolina.

AWARDS

1999 Newbery Medal Winner
Winner of the National Book Award
The Boston Globe — Horn Book Award
ALA Best Book for Young Adults
ALA Notable Children's Book
ALA Quick Pick for Young Adults
NCTE Notable Children's Book in the Language Arts
The New York Times Book Review Notable Children's Book of the Year
Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year

REVIEWS

*"We haven't seen a book with this much plot, so suspensefully and expertly deployed, in too long a time. . . .Louis Sachar has long been a great and deserved favorite among children, despite the benign neglect of critics. But Holes is witness to its own theme: what goes around, comes around. Eventually." - - Starred, The Horn Book

*"A multitude of colorful characters, coupled with the skillful braiding of ethnic folklore, American legend, and contemporary issues is a brilliant achievement. There is no question, kids will love Holes." - - Starred, School Library Journal

COPYRIGHT

Prepared by Pat Scales, Director of Library Services, South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities, Greenville, South Carolina.

FURTHER READING

The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline B. Cooney[0-440-22065-3]
Monkey Island by Paula Fox[0-440-40770-2]

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

http://www.ala.org/alsc/newbpast.html



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