Newbery: Holes (Dewey's review)

Cross-posted at my blog.

Holes, written by Louis Sachar, is a novel for kids from about ten years old to fourteen. It won the 1998 National Book Award for Young People's Literature, the 1999 Newbery medal, and many smaller awards. In 2003, it was made into a Disney film, with numerous changes from the book. In 2006, Sachar wrote a companion book, Small Steps, which includes some of the same characters.

The main character is Stanley Yelnats. Stanley is a nice kid, but he has bad luck which is tied to one of the back stories. He ends up being sent to a juvenile detention camp where he is forced, along with the other detainees, to dig holes in the hot sun every day. There are a couple intertwining back stories, and as the reader puts together these stories, it is gradually revealed why the boys are digging the holes. Between flashbacks to these other stories, we see Stanley gain the respect of the other boys. You can read an excerpt (the first chapter) here.

I really enjoyed Holes and would recommend it to a pre-teen kid who was looking for a good book. There's subtle humor throughout, and the characters are all interesting. Stanley, a bright kid with a lot of integrity, is particularly likeable. What I liked best, though, was the structure, which alternated stories from Stanley's time at Camp Green Lake with some of his memories of his family life, a backstory about the history of the Green Lake area, and another backstory about Stanley's ancestors.

My son has read the book twice. A friend of his who enjoyed it gave it to him for his 10th birthday (at the Harry Potter sleepover party!) and then he was assigned to read it in school. I asked for his opinion of the book, but maybe it wasn't such great timing to ask while he was playing a video game. All he said was, "Mm-hm, pretty good."


    i'm reading this one right now! (my 11yo daughter is also going to re-read it, so we can discuss it for the Read Together project.) my kids and i rented the movie a while back, and i thoroughly enjoyed that.

    Looks like you and your daughter and I are reading a lot of the same books!