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Holes by Louis Sachar | Book Summary and What You Should Know before Teaching it

Posted by Jennifer Hester on

Holes, by Louis Sachar, is a fictional story that has a dash of comedy, a splash of mystery, a touch of fantasy, and a lot of adventure! This multi-faceted book is really three different stories entwined into one, giving you lots to dig into with your students!

You'll end your book unit on a high note, having seen Stanley through a wealth of changes. He begins as an insecure, depressed boy. Through the story, Stanley gains a strong will, a voice, and a friend.

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A child holding the book Holes

Holes Book Summary

A teenager named Stanley Yelnats comes from a cursed family and always has bad luck. In yet another stroke of bad luck, he is accused of stealing sneakers. As a result, he is sent to Camp Green Lake, a juvenile detention center. It's an atrocious place, run by an evil Warden, who makes the boys dig giant holes in the dirt every day, under the blazing sun.

While he's there, Stanley comes to realize that the Warden is making them dig all these holes because he's looking for something. As his time at the camp drags on miserably, the narrator of Holes reveals what the Warden is looking for, and also why Stanley's family is cursed. 

A long time ago, Stanley's great-great grandfather had once stolen a pig from a one-legged gypsy. She cursed the entire family. So anytime things go wrong within his family, they blame the curse. For example, Stanley's father is a brilliant but wildly unsuccessful inventor, and their family is very poor. 

110 years before Stanley's arrival at Camp Green Lake, it was a very different place. A teacher that lived there, named Katherine Barlow, falls in love with Sam, an onion seller. Because of the racism that ran rampant at the time, their love causes shock and hatred throughout the community. Sadly, the townspeople try to attack Sam, so the couple tries to escape, but while crossing the lake, Sam is killed. 

Katherine goes mad, and she becomes an outlaw who robs people. She happens to rob Stanley's great-grandfather and buries his money somewhere. It is her treasure that the Warden is searching for. 

Through a series of strange and nail-biting events, Stanley and his newfound friend, Zero, find a suitcase that has the name Stanley Yelnats on it. The Warden tries to take the suitcase, but Stanley's lawyer arrives to say Stanley is innocent and he can leave camp.

It turns out that the suitcase is the very same one that Katherine Barlow had taken from his grandfather so many years ago. It contains many valuable things and results in both Stanley and Zero gaining quite a bit of money.

At the end of the story, it seems that the curse is lifted. Stanley has gained confidence and a true friend. And Stanley's father has finally succeeded in inventing something: a cure for foot odor!

Highlights to know when Studying the Book

Point of View

The narrator is omniscient. While writing about the current day events regarding Stanley, the narrator mostly writes about Stanley's thoughts, emotions, and actions. 

Setting | Time and Place

The story takes place on Green Lake, in Texas. Most of the story (Stanley's part) takes place at the end of the 20th century, but there are flashbacks to mid and late 19th century.


Themes include:

  • the question of how powerful fate or destiny is
  • the importance of friendship
  • overcoming fears and insecurities
  • how character building is achieved through difficult circumstances
  • the effects of cruelty and racism
  • fighting against the lot given to you in life
  • how history affects everything, even everyday life
  • how society can misinterpret people, especially victims of social injustice
A resource page focused on theme which highlights Holes characters and the injustices they suffered from.

    Major Conflict

    Stanley has to struggle against the cruel conditions of Camp Green Lake, his family's curse, and the false accusations placed against him. He must mature, gain independence, and fight everything working against him.


    Though it is filled with dark humor, Holes touches on some sensitive and controversial topics, like bullying, obesity, and racism. 

    Reading Levels

    • Accelerated Reading Level: 4.6
    • Lexile: 660L 
    • Interest Level: Grades 3-8

    Make your novel study stress-free with my Holes Novel Study Resources

    Don't miss out on my complete no-prep novel study, which contains a wealth of resources for this book, including comprehension, vocabulary, activities, projects, and much more! It even includes a digital version through Google Drive.

    Holes Novel Study Unit | Comprehension Questions with Activities and Projects

    Don't need the whole thing? Check out my smaller Holes resources below!

    Holes | Comprehension Questions with Vocabulary ActivitiesHoles | Activities and Projects | Worksheets and Digital  Holes | Assessments Quizzes Tests | Novel Study