Last night I finished reading Louis Sachar’s children’s book Holes. My daughter had told me it was good, and I have been carefully avoiding the Disney movie based on the book so I could read it. I had heard glowing reviews. Daniel Radcliffe said, for instance, that he didn’t like reading much until he read this book and, of course, the Harry Potter series. I borrowed the book from a colleague (it belongs to her son). While I was in the hallway, a male student stopped me in and raved about the book. Hmm… I thought. This is a book boys love. I can’t tell you how hard it is to find books like that; in my experience as an educator, boys just do not read as much as girls do, and it is harder to find books they will like. If this were not a problem, then programs like this one wouldn’t be necessary.
That said, I found it a charming story. Stanley Yelnats has nothing but bad luck, and it’s all on account of his no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather, Elya Yelnats. Stanley is accused of stealing a pair of shoes; no one believes him when he tries to tell them they fell out of the sky. Stanley is presented with a choice. He can go to Camp Green Lake, a sort of juvenile work farm, or jail. Stanley picks Camp Green Lake.
Camp Green Lake has no lake. The guiding philosophy of those who run the camp is, “If you take a bad boy and make him dig a hole every day in the hot sun, it will turn him into a good boy.” So Stanley and the other “campers” dig holes, five feet deep and five feet wide in all directions. After a while, it becomes clear to Stanley that the camp’s warden has the boys dig holes because she’s looking for something.
The storyline is well-plotted and holds the reader’s interest. We are introduced to Stanley’s parents and learn about the Yelnats curse that prevents the family from catching a break. Along the way, we meet Stanley’s no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather and his poor great-grandfather, who was robbed by Kissin’ Kate Barlow. Stanley even meets the descendent of Madame Zeroni, who placed the curse on the Yelnats family, and is able to fulfill a destiny that four generations of his family have been oppressed under.
One thing I didn’t understand about the story was the character Mr. Pendanski, the camp counselor. He seems, on the one hand, sympathetic to the boys. He does a small part to make their lives a bit easier, and he shows them respect by addressing them by their given names instead of the nicknames they have all chosen or been assigned by the campers. Except for Zero. Mr. Pendanski treats Zero with nothing but contempt, and the reason why is never really brought to light or resolved. Zero is actually a pretty nice kid, and he has had the roughest life you can imagine, so it seems doubly hard to believe that a counselor would try to make it any rougher. I would have liked to have discovered the reason for Mr. Pendanski’s contempt for Zero.
Aside from this snag, I thought the story was great, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.