Holes (novel)

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Holes
Sachar - Holes Coverart.png
First edition cover
Author Louis Sachar
Cover artist Vladimir Radunsky
Language Adventure, Satire
Publisher Farrar, Straus and Giroux (US)
Bloomsbury (UK)
Ediciones SM (Spain)
Publication date
August 20, 1998
Media type Print (hardcover & paperback)
Pages 241 pp (first edition)
233 pp (second ed.)
497 pp (on iPad)
ISBN 978-0-440-41480-3
OCLC 3800257333232
Dewey Decimal [Fic] 21
LC Class PZ7.S1185 Ho 1998
Followed by Stanley Yelnats' Survival Guide to Camp Green Lake

Holes is a 1998 young adults novel written by Louis Sachar and first published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. It won the 1998 U.S. National Book Award for Young People's Literature[1] and the 1999 Newbery Medal for the year's "most distinguished contribution to American literature for children".[2] Originally, the book was to be called Wrong Place, Wrong Time, Wrong Kid. It was adapted into a film by Walt Disney Pictures and released in 2003.

Plot[edit]

Present Day[edit]

Stanley Yelnats is an overweight teenage boy from a poor family that is affected by "a curse", which they blame on Stanley's great-great-grandfather. Stanley's latest misfortune is to be wrongly accused of stealing a pair of shoes (after one bad day in school) donated to a children's orphanage by the baseball player Clyde "Sweet Feet" Livingston.

As punishment, Stanley is sent to Camp Green Lake, a juvenile detention and correctional facility which, despite its name, is in the middle of a barren desert. When he arrives at the desolate place, Mr. Sir, the supervisor, warns him not to cross Warden Walker. After an uneasy start, he is gradually accepted into the company of the inmates in Tent D. He also befriends a feral child called Zero, who is dismissed as stupid by the other inmates, and by Mr. Pendanski, another supervisor.

19th Century Latvia[edit]

Stanley's great-great-grandfather, Elya Yelnats, has a crush on Myra Menke, but a much older man named Igor Barkov is also trying to woo her. Igor is a pig farmer, and he offers his heaviest pig in exchange for Myra's hand in marriage.

Desperate to impress Myra and her father, Elya goes to his friend Madame Zeroni, a one-legged "Egyptian" (gypsy), for help. She warns him that Myra is stupid and will not be a good wife, and advises him to move to America, as her son has. He persists, and she gives him a tiny piglet, telling him to carry the piglet up a mountain every day, and let it drink from a stream and sing to it. On the last day, after he carries the pig one last time, he must carry Madame Zeroni herself up the mountain to do the same.

Elya follows her directions, and the piglet grows to a large size, but he does not carry the pig up on the final day. Elya nearly wins Myra as his bride, but his pig is revealed to be the same weight as Igor's. Elya realizes Madame Zeroni was right about Myra's stupidity and walks away in disgust. Forgetting to carry Madame Zeroni up the mountain, he moves to America to start a new life, falls in love, and marries, but he is beset by misfortune, presumably from Madame Zeroni's curse. Stanley's friend Zero is revealed to be Hector Zeroni, Madame Zeroni's great-great-great grandson.

Green Lake, Before it Ran Dry[edit]

The town of Green Lake is a flourishing community. Katherine "Kate" Barlow, the local teacher, is occasionally asked on a date by Charles "Trout" Walker, her wealthy, dim-witted adult student. She declines, but is warned that "no one says no to Charles Walker!"

Sam, the local African-American onion salesman, is Kate's real romantic interest and lover. Kate has Sam repair her schoolhouse and falls in love with him. When Kate is seen kissing Sam on the lips, the jealous Charles Walker convinces the prejudiced town that Kate has corrupted her students with books. Sam and Kate escape onto the lake in Sam's boat, Mary Lou, but they are chased down by the Walkers. Kate is spared, but Sam is shot and killed (as is his donkey, also named Mary Lou). Sam's murder curses Green Lake: no rain falls on the area, and eventually the lake dries up and the town is abandoned.

For the next 20 years, Kate is "Kissin' Kate" Barlow, a feared Texan outlaw who leaves a prominent kiss-mark in lipstick on her dead victims. Kate robs Stanley's great-grandfather, Stanley Yelnats I, of his entire fortune, but rather than kill him, she abandons him in the desert that was Green Lake. Miraculously, he survives.

Years later, Kate returns to an old cabin on the former lakeside and is tracked down by Charles Walker and his wife, who are bankrupt and desperate for money. They try to force her to reveal where she buried her loot, but she is bitten by a yellow-spotted lizard and dies, taunting them to "start digging". The Walkers are left to dig the entire area in order to find the buried suitcase. The Warden is the granddaughter of the Walkers, and is using the campers to search for the treasure.

Present Day[edit]

The inmates at Camp Green Lake are forced to dig holes five feet deep and five feet wide, which the warden says "builds their character." They are promised a day off if they find anything interesting. During one dig, Stanley finds one of Barlow's lipstick tubes, but he pawns it off to X-Ray, the ringleader of Tent D. The Warden is excited by the discovery and orders them to greatly enlarge X-Ray's hole (the wrong hole) for several weeks. Stanley suspects that the Warden is looking for something.

During an argument, Zero loses his temper and hits Mr. Pendanski with a shovel. Zero runs away, and the camp staff decide to erase their records of him and let him die in the desert. Stanley follows Zero and finds him living under the remains of Sam's boat, eating very old jars of Kate's spiced peaches, which he calls "Sploosh". Stanley notices a mountain resembling a human fist giving the thumbs up sign, and recalls that Stanley Yelnats I claimed to find "refuge on God’s thumb". On their way up the mountain, Zero admits that he was the one who stole "Sweet Feet's" shoes.

Atop the mountain, Stanley discovers a field of onions that was once Sam's. The boys eat the onions and find water by digging in the ground, and Stanley sings to Zero, unknowingly breaking Madame Zeroni's curse. Stanley suggests that they return to the hole where Stanley found the lipstick to find the buried treasure. They find a suitcase buried in the hole, but they are captured by the Warden, and surrounded by a group of lethal yellow-spotted lizards. A stalemate develops: they cannot move, but the lizards prevent the Warden's staff from approaching them. The lizards do not bite Stanley and Zero because they are repelled by onions (as Sam once said). They remain in the hole until the next morning, when an attorney arrives demanding Stanley’s release. The Warden tries to claim they stole the suitcase from her, but Zero reveals that the name ‘Stanley Yelnats’ is written on it. After the camp staff are unable to produce Zero's file, he too is released.

Stanley's family open the case, discovering the jewels, deeds, stocks and promissory notes stolen from Stanley Yelnats I. Using the money raised from the bonds, Stanley's family buys a new house and Zero hires a team of investigators to find his missing mother; meanwhile, the drought at Green Lake is brought to an end by rainfall. The family's luck seems to change as if in response to Stanley's fulfillment of his ancestor's promise (a suggestion left purposely ambiguous by the narration). In a final scene, Clyde Livingston and his wife, along with the Yelnats and Zeroni families, celebrate the success of Stanley’s father's antidote to foot odor, composed of preserved and fermented spiced peaches and onions and named "Sploosh" by Zero. The Warden is forced to sell Green Lake to the state government, which turns it into a Girl Scout camp.

Characters[edit]

Stanley Yelnats IV[edit]

A Overweight protagonist of the novel Stanley is the unlikely hero of Holes. He is an overweight boy who does not have any friends from school and is often picked on by his classmates and the school bully. Stanley's family is cursed with bad luck, and although they do not have much money, they always try to remain hopeful and look on the bright side of things. Stanley shares these traits with his family and, although he does not have a lot of self-confidence, he is not easily depressed, a characteristic that helps him adjust to the horrendous conditions of Camp Green Lake. As the book progresses, Stanley slowly develops physical strength and personal strength. He identifies the people who threaten him, like the Warden, and while he tries not to get in trouble he also stands up for his own right and the rights of his friends

Zero[edit]

Zero is the boy who dropped the shoes and got Stanley into Camp Green Lake. His mother and he had a very troubled life where they had to move to a lot of different places before they ended up homeless. Zero often had to wait at different places when his mother went away, then had to go on his own when she did not return. He never knew what happened to her. He has very few friends at Camp Green Lake (to which he was sent after being caught lifting shoes from a shoe store following his theft of Livingston's shoes), except Stanley. Unable to read and write, he asks Stanley to teach him, which Stanley only does after Zero digs his hole for him in response to him taking the blame for the theft of Mr. Sir's sunflower seeds (which Magnet was responsible for). When their arrangement is found out, Zero runs away. When the counselors choose to erase his records rather than report his running away (Pendanski insists he was nobody, that no one will look for him because no one cares about him). They meet and climb up God's Thumb, then return and find the treasure of Stanley's first ancestor. He is the one who lead to the legal closing of Camp Green Lake. He has got dark eyes and he is the fastest digger in the camp.

X-Ray[edit]

X-Ray is the unofficial head of the group of boys in tent D at Camp Green Lake. X-Ray decides that Stanley will be called Caveman and fixes the order of the line for water. X-Ray maintains his position as the leader of the boys even though he is one of the smallest boys and can barely see without his glasses. He convinces Stanley to give him the lipstick tube that Stanley finds in his hole so that he can have the day off instead of Stanley. X-Ray is able to maintain his position at the head of the group through a system of rewards and allies. Every time that Stanley does something nice for X-Ray, X-Ray is nice to Stanley and stands up for him when the other boys pick on him. When Stanley becomes friends with Zero, however, X-Ray's system is threatened and he becomes hostile towards Stanley. When Stanley and Zero are released from the camp all of the boys come over to congratulate them except for X-Ray. It is clear that X-Ray is not only jealous but also threatened that more attention is being paid to Stanley and Zero.

Katherine "Kissin' Kate" Barlow[edit]

Katherine Barlow is a sweet and intelligent woman who teaches in a one-room school house on Green Lake one hundred ten years before it becomes Camp Green Lake. She falls in love with Sam, the man who sells onions in the town, because he is kind, strong, and smart. Although the rest of the white people in the town are racists and enforce rules that prohibit black people from going to school, Kate, who is white, does not care about the color of a person's skin and she loves Sam for the person that he is. When Kate and Sam kiss the town grows angry and kills Sam. Kate is devastated by Sam's death and decides to have revenge. She becomes Kissin' Kate Barlow, one of the most feared outlaws in the west. Kissin' Kate would always leave her mark by kissing someone when she had killed them; if she had only robbed them, she would leave them in the hot desert letting the yellow-spotted lizards bite them with their poisonous teeth and kill them. She was the outlaw responsible for robbing Stanley Yelnats I, whose treasure is later found by Stanley and Hector. She is also very mean.

Setting[edit]

Camp Green Lake is located in Texas on a dried up lake. The area is not green and there is no lake, what little shade (two oak trees) there is owned by the Warden.Camp Green Lake is a parched barren place with the scorching sun looking above the place with hardly any clouds making the environment any cooler.

Film adaptation[edit]

In 2003, Walt Disney Pictures released a film version of Holes, which was directed by Andrew Davis and written by Louis Sachar.[3] The film was a success at the box office.

Sequels[edit]

Two companion novels have followed Holes: Stanley Yelnats' Survival Guide to Camp Green Lake (2003) and Small Steps (2006).[4]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Awards
Preceded by
Out of the Dust
Newbery Medal recipient
1999
Succeeded by
Bud, Not Buddy
Preceded by
New category
Winner of the
William Allen White Children's Book Award
Grades 6–8

2001
Succeeded by
Bud, Not Buddy