by Louis Sachar
Dell Yearling (Imprint of Random House) 1998, 233 pages, Paperback, Black & white, Price: Rs. 215, Borrowed from Bookworm Library - Panjim, Type of book: Humour/Adventure
Reviewed by Julian D’Costa
Stanley Yelnats is a fat, unhappy boy. His father is a struggling inventor who is trying to invent a way to recycle sneakers. Stanley’s whole family has been unlucky ever since his no-good-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather was cursed for not carrying an old lady up the mountain. None more so than his great grandfather, who made a fortune in the stock market and then was robbed and left for dead in the deserts of Texas by the famous outlaw Kissin’ Kate Barlow.
One day a pair of shoes falls from the sky into Stanley’s hands. They belong to Claude Livingstone---smelly-footed baseball great and Stanley’s idol. Stanley is arrested for theft and sent to Camp Green Lake. There is no lake and nothing is green.
There the psychotic warden who sharpens her nails and paints them with deadly rattlesnake venom sets the juvenile delinquents (for building character) to digging hundreds of holes in the dried bed of what was once the Green Lake of the camp name.
As Mr. Sir explains, there are no fences around Camp Green Lake. None are needed. They have the only water around for a hundred miles. Stanley is put with the boys of Group D—Squid, Armpit, X-Ray, Magnet, Zigzag, and Zero. He is nicknamed the Caveman.
One day as Stanley is digging away, he finds a peculiar golden tube with the initials KB on it. The warden becomes tremendously excited and orders all digging to be concentrated on that spot. Unfortunately for her, it’s the wrong spot. Due to a slight mix-up, involving X-Ray claiming credit for the discovery, the warden is looking in the wrong place. Only Stanley knows the right spot. But there are the deadly yellow-spotted lizards…
Louis Sachar says that, unlike his others, this book did not start with the characters. Or even an idea. It started with a place. Camp Green Lake. A dried lakebed where no rain has fallen for a hundred and ten years where the unlucky juvenile delinquents dig huge holes, day after day to ‘build character’.
My favourite character is Zero, the fastest hole digger and maths genius whom Stanley teaches to read. To me, another great character is the incredibly scary warden.
The book is written in an interesting way, mixing past and present while keeping the suspense going. The end of the book fills up all the holes neatly. All the disparate elements interconnect to form one beautifully tight-knit story.
Louis Sachar has written many books for children including:
Sideways Stories From Wayside School series
Some excerpts from Holes:
‘Stanley Yelnats was given a choice. The judge said, "You may go to jail, or you may go to Camp Green Lake." Stanley was from a poor family. He had never been to camp before.’
‘Sometimes a camper will try to be bitten by a scorpion or even a small rattlesnake. Then he will get to spend a day or two recovering in his tent, instead of having to dig a hole out on the lake. But you don’t want to be bitten by a yellow-spotted lizard. That’s the worst thing that can happen to you. You will die a slow and painful death. Always.’
Rating: 9 out of 10
Std 7 – Vidya Vikas Academy, Margao