14 May 2014

Holes: 1999 Newbery Award Winner

In March of 2014, I started a new undertaking: reading every single Newbery Medal Winner book.  A number of them I have read in the past, but I am reading them with fresh eyes,and reviewing them for others. I am not reading them in order, as some will require some effort on my part to find them all.  Want to keep track of which books I read?  Check them out at Confessions of a Wannabe Reader!

Sachar - Holes Coverart.png
Cover of the book - used for identification purposes only under the fair use clause.

Stanley Yelnats IV: Wrong Kid?

"Stanley was not a bad kid.  He was innocent of the crime for which he had been committed.  He'd just been in the wrong place and the wrong time.  It was all because of his no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather!"

Stanley Yelnats IV lives with a curse that has been in his family for five generations, ever since his ancestor stole a pig and broke a promise.  Convicted of a theft he did not commit, Stanley is sent to  the boys' detention center at Camp Green Lake in Texas, a place that is neither green nor a lake.  Under the watchful eyes of Warden Walker and counselors Mr. Sir and Mr. Pendanski, every boy at Camp Green Lake spends every single day building holes that are exactly five feet deep and five feet high.  It does not take long for Stanley, nicknamed Caveman for his size, and the illiterate inmate, Hector Zeroni, called Zero, to figure out that the Warden is having the boys dig holes so she can find something she has been searching for.  Interspersed in the main story are vignettes about Stanley's ancestors, the story of the curse, and the tale of the famous outlaw Kissin' Kate Barlow.

I have read the story of  Holes by Louis Sachar numerous times and had seen the movie made from the book once.  The book is darkly humorous and filled with many pieces of a puzzle that come together neatly at the end.  It weaves together neatly at the end, much like Jerry Spinelli's works weave a picture that can't be seen until the end. While the ending on Holes is a little ambiguous, it leaves one thinking that good things have happened to the protagonists.

The story is one of redemption.  Stanley, who is described as overweight and friendless, comes to accept his failings and learns that he has a strength of character, and the physical labor of digging the holes strengthens his body as well.  The friend that he makes while at camp, Zero, learns also, as he is taught to read and has an aptitude for numbers and mathematics.   Zero also learns that he is not a nobody, but that someone cares for him, as he has been left behind by everyone and would not be missed if he disappeared, as Stanley looks out for him.

The theme of family is very strong in this work.  Stanley's family, though very poor, is very loving. And determined to make the best of Stanley's stay at Camp Green Lake.  Zero has no family, as his mother abandoned him, and he feels the loss greatly as he wishes for family.  There is also the Yelnats family curse, brought on by the Latvian pig-stealing Elya Yelnats, who is cursed by Madame Zeroni for not fulfilling a promise he made and the family he created with an American woman named Sarah.  Then there is Stanley Yelnats I, who was lost in the desert after being robbed of his fortune and falling in love with a nurse.   The theme of family is also demonstrated by the other boys at the detention center who have their bouts of homesickness and wish to see their own families.

Overall, this is a very well written piece of children's literature and I would recommend it!

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