Holes Has Something For Everyone

If you have a fifth-grader, or if you teach fifth grade, chances are you’ve read Holes by Louis Sachar, or at least seen the movie. I read it while substitute teaching in fifth-grade classrooms, and watched the movie when one teacher left it as a treat for the class.

But you don’t have to be a fifth grader to enjoy this book. The stodgy New York Times Book Review and the Boston Sunday Globe gave it rave reviews. It also won the National Book Award and the Newbery Medal, and it was made into an excellent movie as well, starring Jon Voight and Sigourney Weaver.

For the fifth grader, Holes has characters with names like Armpit and Barfbag. But this book has something for everyone else, too: a gypsy curse, buried treasure, a bandit name Kissin’ Kate Barlow, deadly spotted lizards, a fateful interracial kiss, a baseball player with a foot odor problem, and a delightful sense of irony.

Most of the action takes place at Camp Green Lake where nothing is green and there is no lake. Stanley Yelnats has been sent there for a crime he didn’t commit, and he finds himself digging holes all day along with other juvenile offenders, under the watchful eye of Mr. Sir (Jon Voight) and the Warden (Sigourney Weaver).

It’s not a very pleasant place, but Stanley takes it all pretty philosophically and just blames it on his “no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather.”

And he has an old family song that’s pretty philosophical, too:
“If only, if only,” the woodpecker sighs,

“The bark on the trees was as soft as the skies.”
While the wolf waits below, hungry and lonely,
Crying to the moo-oo-oon,
“If only, if only.”

If you’re looking for a hilarious, engaging read, Holes is the book for you.