As an eclectic reader, I read books for all ages. A book club to which I belong reads a juvenile book each August, chosen by the librarian leader. Our book this August is Holes by Louis Sachar. Holes is a book which will make readers angry, thoughtful, sad, and ultimately glad.
Stanley Yelnats has lived under a curse along with previous ancestors also named Stanley Yelnats. The curse began because of “his no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather,” or so the family lore goes. Note, too, that Stanley Yelnats is the same name back to front.
Our current Stanley, age 14, finds himself unjustly accused and convicted of a crime of stealing some sneakers that were being auctioned off for charity because they belonged to Clyde, “Sweet Feet,” Livingston, a famous, local baseball player. In truth, the shoes fell from the sky—or more precisely from an overhead bridge—into Stanley’s hands. When the shoes land on him, Stanley assumes they have simply been thrown away and he was in the right place at the right time to catch them.
Stanley’s father experiments with all sneakers to see if he can create a shoe that won’t smell bad. Stanley thinks his father will be glad to have the shoes for his experiments. Stanley’s punishment for supposedly taking the shoes is to be sent to Green Lake, TX, where he must dig holes in the lakebed of the former lake, now totally dry. Other boys are also there working off their punishments, “building character,” and also digging holes.
The adults who oversee the boys’ punishment are mean, hateful, detestable, odious, loathsome, and revolting along with any number of other mean adjectives. They mistreat the boys, denying them water for simple infractions, real and imagined, giving them little food, and no comforts at all during their rest periods.
Readers learn the backstory of Elya Yelnats, Stanley’s Latvian great-great-grandfather, who is the source of the curse. Read the book to discover why the curse was visited upon Elya Yelnats. This backstory is important and will obviously come into play more fully in Stanley’s life as he continues to dig holes for his punishment.
Another story of importance from the past has to do with Kissin’ Kate Barlow, the kissing bandit who lived in the town of Green Lake when it was a green and prosperous community with a lake actually filled with water instead of dry land. That was in 1888. This old story, too, plays an important part in Stanley’s modern-day life.
The boys sent to Green Lake for punishment must dig holes every day, day after day. If they find an “interesting” object, they are to give it immediately to the Warden. Readers will quickly surmise once they know Kissin’ Kate’s story that the Warden hopes the boys find something of real value.
Not only do the boys face rapid punishment for any infraction or perceived laziness, they also face natural dangers like poisonous snakes and poisonous lizards which inhabit the dry lakebed. These are very real dangers which these children regardless of what they may have done should not be subjected to.
As one might expect, an incident occurs which creates quite a stir among the mean, hateful Warden and the other equally odious overseers and which causes great harm. This incident spirals out of control for one particular boy and ensnares Stanley as well because he has a kind heart.
Readers will also discover that sometimes real justice does occur. Read Holes to find out how that happens.