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Holes (novel)

Holes (1998) is a Newbery Medal-winning novel by Louis Sachar. It was adapted into a screenplay for the 2003 film by Walt Disney Pictures which was a critical and commercial success, and starred Shia LeBeouf, Sigourney Weaver, Jon Voight, Patricia Arquette, and Tim Blake Nelson. In 2006, Sachar published Small Steps, a companion novel which is about one of the characters from Holes, Armpit.


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The story of Stanley Yelnats and Camp Green Lake started about one hundred years ago. Back in Latvia, Elya Yelnats, the great-great-grandfather of Stanley, fell in love with an empty headed girl. Her father announced that on this girl's birthday, whoever shows up with the largest pig will have his daughter. Elya did not own any pigs; discouraged, he went to Madame Zeroni, an old woman with many words of advice. She gave Elya a piglet, and told him that every day, he was to take the piglet up the mountain on the edge of town, and let it have a drink of water from the stream on it, while singing it a special melody that she taught him. The pig will grow every day, and Elya would grow stronger every day, allowing him to carry a full-grown pig up the mountain. On the day the pigs were to be judged, he was to carry the pig up the mountain one last time; his pig would be the biggest one that would be at the girl’s house. Afterwards, he was to carry Madame Zeroni up the mountain and let her have a drink of water from the stream, or else he would be cursed. Elya followed Madame Zeroni’s instructions, and his pig grew larger and larger. However, on the final day, instead of taking the pig up the mountain, Elya took a bath; at the girl’s house, his pig was just as heavy as the other heaviest pig. Therefore, the girl was to choose, as to the father, “a pig is a pig”. This girl could not decide between Elya, and the owner of the other pig, an old, horrible man.

At around the same time, big things were also happening in the town of Green Lake, where the largest lake in all of Texas was located. There, the only schoolteacher and the famed creator of a secret spiced peach recipe, Katherine Barlow, was accused of kissing Sam, the local onion picker. Sam was killed, because he was black and Katherine was white. Katherine, devastated, turned into the most feared outlaw in the West, Kissin’ Kate Barlow, who kisses the men she kills, and stole all of the first Stanley Yelnats’ fortune as well as left him stranded in the desert. After twenty years, she went back to Green Lake, now a ghost town with no lake due to a huge drought over the course of 250 years. She died when she was bitten by a yellow-spotted lizard; Charles “Trout” Walker, the son of a rich family that lost their riches after the drought destroyed all the peach trees, finds out that Kissin’ Kate Barlow buried her stolen money; ever since, the Walker family has been digging in the dried-up lake in hopes that they can restore their riches, and their pride.

Our Camp Green Lake is the result of a secret operation by the descendant of Charles Walker, Lou Walker, who is the Warden of the camp. In order to speed up the recovery of the treasure, she started a program where boys convicted of a less-serious crime dig holes every day to build character. She set up a system where if you find something interesting, and she likes it, you get a day off, so that the detainees would be encouraged to hand over any clues of the location of the treasure instead of keeping them to themselves. However, the detainees are reminded that they are digging to build character, not to find things to earn a day off. No one at the camp suspected anything.

Stanley Yelnats IV, our Stanley Yelnats, was an important component of the recovery of the treasure. He was sent to Camp Green Lake after he was accused of stealing the shoes of Clyde Livingston, a baseball player with foot fungus, worth 5000 dollars, from a charity auction. For his “despicable” crime (as the judge called it), he was to go to Camp Green Lake, or serve a longer term in jail. Stanley’s family did not know of the happenings at Camp Green Lake, and as they were in financial trouble, they made the best out of a bad situation saw this as a chance for their son to experience a camp.

At Camp Green Lake, Stanley found a lipstick tube; he gave it to X-Ray, the leader of the group, who requested all of Stanley’s discoveries previously, and X-Ray turned the find in for a day off. Warden Walker immediately recognized the fact that it was Kissin’ Kate Barlow’s lipstick tube; however, as she thought X-Ray found it, she thought the treasure was near X-Ray’s hole and not Stanley’s, where the tube was actually found. The boys were ordered to dig in the area around X-Ray’s hole; this was when Stanley found out that the Warden was searching for something.

One day, the great-great-great-grandson of Madame Zeroni, Hector Zeroni, ran away from the camp after being called stupid by one of the counselors. Worried, Stanley goes searching for Hector a few days later. He finds Hector under Sam’s boat, and he finds out that Hector was surviving on a liquid he called Sploosh, which is actually Katherine Barlow’s spiced peaches that had lasted all those one hundred years. Afterwards, the two saw a mountain formation in the distance. Stanley thinks that it resembled a thumb, and remembers how his great-grandfather, after being robbed by Kate Barlow, said that he found refuge on God’s Thumb and he and Hector headed towards it. However, the Sploosh and the heat made Hector sick, and Stanley was required to carry Hector up the mountain. On the mountain, Hector admitted that he was the one who stole the shoes; he had put the shoes on a car after stealing it, and after the shoes fell from an overpass, Stanley was caught with the shoes. Hector was arrested a day later after trying to steal a pair of shoes from a store, but because Stanley’s trial kept being delayed by Clyde Livingston’s baseball schedule, he arrived about a month earlier. Stanley forgives Hector, and while Hector drank from a water hole, Stanley sang him the melody that was in his family for generations; this was an English version of the Latvian melody that Elya was taught by Madame Zeroni, and that broke the curse that was placed on the Yelnats a hundred years ago. While they were up there Stanley and Hector lived on onions, the ones Sam sold, and that cured Zero's effects from the Sploosh.

After a while, the two decided to go back to the camp to find whatever the Warden was so keen on finding; after searching in the hole Stanley found the lipstick tube in, they found a suitcase that belonged to the first Stanley Yelnats. Soon after, yellow spotted lizards crawled on the boys but refused to bite due to the fact that they hated onion blood. Shortly afterwards, Stanley’s lawyer came with news that Stanley was innocent; after some discussion, Hector was also freed, and with the value of the contents in the suitcase (which was full of legal bonds), Stanley got a new house for his family, and Hector hired a team of investigators to find his missing family. In a final scene, we see Clyde Livingston’s family with the Yelnats and the Zeronis celebrating the success of Stanley’s father, who developed a cure for foot fungus. Hector’s mother sang a song to Hector, which turned out to be another version of the original lullaby, and was almost a response to the version of the song that the Yelnats had passed down through the 100 years.



One scholar has praised the descriptive passages about Stanley's laborious efforts at digging holes, which take up many pages in the novel. "The naturalism of the descriptions adds to the poignancy of the protagonist's emotional life" writes Maria Nikolajeva in her book The Rhetoric of Character in Children's Literature.[1]

Film, TV or theatrical adaptations

Main article: Holes (film)

In 2003, Disney released a film version of Holes, which was directed by Andrew Davis and written by Louis Sachar. It was a relatively faithful adaptation of the novel and a modest hit at the box office.


Seattle Children's Theatre professionally premiered the stageplay in April 2008.[2]


  1. ^ Nikolajeva, Maria (2002). The Rhetoric of Character in Children's Literature. Scarecrow Press. pp. 214–216. ISBN 0-8108-4886-4. 
  2. ^ Gilson, Nancy. (December 4, 2009) Columbus Dispatch Author weaves history of region into "Holes". Features section, page 7G.

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Books, Cafe Libri, Childrens Books, Louis Sachar, Holes, John Newberry Medal


ISBN-13:  978-0-440-41480-3
Author:  Louis Sachar
Genre:  YA
Publisher:  Random House Books for Young Readers
What's your opinion on Holes?
112 Ratings: +3.3
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review by . June 28, 2010
Holes, by Louis Sachar, is an extremely satisfying read – and, unless I’m in charge of handing out the John Newberry Medal for “most distinguished contribution to American literature for children,” (and for the record, I’m not), I’m certainly not the only person to think so.      For those who haven’t read the work or seen its movie adaptation, Holes follows the story of a poor and overweight boy named Stanley Yelnats who lacks confidence, …
review by . March 02, 2008
Very well done "kids" book, although certainly not beneath the level of any good novel.    Ending seemed a bit abrupt, but overall good action, dialog, humor, story, pacing. Might even make a good movie (Holes (Widescreen Edition)
review by . July 13, 2010
I'm having one of my sixth grade students read (and then watch) Holes as a summer project. I think it's a great book, especially for students in the middle grades. There are valuable lessons about friendship, perseverance, honesty, integrity, and the impact of racism to be found in Holes. Though the delivery of these messages may be a bit too heavy-handed for adult readers, it is perfect for young readers just setting sail into the waters of literature.     
review by . July 05, 2010
I first read this book as a requirement for a class I was taking in college.  However, little did I know it would become my favorite book.      As a child, I read Sachar’s “Sideway Stories from Wayside School.” It was one of my favorites and as an adult I read “Holes” and was blown away.  I did not even realize it was the same author I loved as a child.  It a great example of a modern day fairytale with important lessons for life for …
review by . July 12, 2010
When I was in 5th grade in elementary school, this book was new and our librarian read it to us.  I couldn't wait until our once a week library class so I could hear what would happen next.  It's the story of a boy from an unlucky family who must dig holes at a camp as retribution for a crime he didn't do.  The desert where they're digging has a history of its own.  At the camp he meets friends and learns a lot about the importance of family and friendship.  …
review by . July 03, 2010
This book is such a wonderful family reading book.  It has a lot about friendship and family in the story.  It teaches you that although life can throw you some lemons karma comes back at you.  The book has a lot of great characters and each one has a lesson that teach us like stanley helping zero to read or zero taking the truck but in the end the bad guys got caught for running the camp so horrbily and the suitcase was full of bonds that stanley shared with zero so he could find …
Quick Tip by . August 08, 2010
Fantastically multi-threaded young-adult fiction. Gotta love the foreshadowing and the tight, multilayered essence of this narrative.
Quick Tip by . July 17, 2010
This is so artfully constructed and fun. I love how Sachar weaves together multiple story lines to create a fun adventure.
Quick Tip by . July 12, 2010
A great book for all ages of people. Tells a great story of family ties and integrity. Very funny and heartwarming.
Quick Tip by . July 09, 2010
This was a really good read. It was one of my requirements in middle school to read it,and i'm glad i did.
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