Louis Sachar. Holes. New York: Dell Yearling, 1998. http://www.louissachar.com/
Stanley Yelnats has been sentenced to Camp Green Lake. He had been falsely accused of stealing a pair of celebrity shoes that was to be auctioned off for charity. He soon finds out that Camp Green Lake does not have a lake and is anything but a typical camp. At camp, Stanley meets a group of misfits who all have peculiar nicknames. Work begins immediately and he learns that he will be digging a hole a day, everyday until the Warden finds what she is looking for. During his time at the camp, Stanley finds that he is digging up much more than just dirt. He decides to investigate what everyone is actually digging for. Along the way he finds the truth about his families past and the wild outlaw, Kissing Kate Barlow.
A prominent theme in Louis Sachar’s novel is perseverance. Stanley is forced to persevere through his unfortunate circumstances. He has been charged with a crime that he did not commit and is now working long, hot, days out in the summer heat. Stanley decides that he is going to find out what the Warden is searching for. He has many obstacles that get in his way but he does not give up. When he runs away to find Zero he is hot, thirsty, and sees no end in sight but he does not stop searching. Events keep coming up that would make it easy for Stanley to change his mind and settle for his prior conditions. Setting a goal and continue forward until you can achieve it is a task that requires hard work. Sachar does a great job in giving the reader a character who strives to do his best and perseveres through unfortunate events.
Justice is also called into question in this novel. Stanley is sent to Camp Green Lake for a crime that his is innocent of. He was not allowed to tell his story and it did not seem that they even allowed him that right. Sachar does a great day of exploiting the harsh truths of the legal system. Many times young individuals do not have a chance to explain themselves and are believed to be “guilty until proven innocent” instead of the other way around. The way authority is represented in this novel also serves as a model for the court system. The authorities rule with a big stick and do not allow for justification of peoples actions. This novel shows that although the court systems and the discipline systems are hard to make it through, one comes out stronger in the end; there is something to be learned from every situation.
This novel can be used as a tool to discuss and explain the intent and purposes of discipline. Many times students are disciplined and they do not understand the purpose or point of their punishment. Rules are placed for a reason and generally have great intent but overtime they may become corrupt or no longer effective. Sachar allows this concept to be discussed. I would have my students break into groups and discuss the positive and negative effects that Camp Green Lake could have on its campers. I will then relate these intentions to the larger scale of the justice system. The activity that I will assign to the class will be to write a letter to a person of authority justifying why or why not a rule or law that is in effect is or is not effective. After deciding upon this laws effectiveness, I will then ask the students to offer suggestions or changes that may be more useful to students in the long run.
I personally enjoyed the family ties that were exposed in this novel. The way the history is explained and connections are made at the end of the novel made the history of the legends even more relevant. I was unsure at first what importance all of the old legends that were being explained meant to the reader. At the end we find that everything can be explained through family ties. Displaying the information of the family legends in flashback form the way Sachar did was really effective and helped contribute to the quick pace of the novel itself. Although the novel itself is very short, it accomplishes a lot of elements in its entirety. I loved to be shocked and surprised by the outcome of the story and Louis Sachar did just that. It gives the reader that message that justice will prevail it just might need a little help!
This novel has got many great reviews. However, it is based for an audience around the age of 10. Older readers may be bored by the story and wish for a more intensive story line. “The main reason Louis Sachar used flashbacks to make the book more interesting as the middle part of the novel just dragged on.”http://www.readingmatters.co.uk/book.php?id=84 Holes, “This is an intricate story. There are a lot of characters spread across the generations. Their paths cross and re-cross brilliantly.