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