Newbery Project #15: 1999’s Holes

holesWe made it to the present, guys (for a good portion of this book)! We’re not stuck in the depression anymore!

But we have also made it back to the last century of Newbery winners! Welcome back to the 20th century everybody. We’ll be here for the remainder of the project.

And it’s time for Louis Sachar’s Holes! Are you as psyched as I am? Maybe! Lots of people really love this book! They should! It’s great! ALL THE EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!!!!!!!!

So, yes, quickly, Holes is about Stanley Yelnats (same backwards as forwards!) who is accused of stealing some very valuable shoes that were to be auctioned off for charity, so he’s sent to a juvenile detention camp where everyone just digs holes all day in search of a mysterious treasure.

The premise allows for an appealingly diverse cast of characters and all kinds of inherent conflict. Stanley didn’t do it! Everyone in this camp did something wrong, they’ll probably do something wrong again! The warden is evil! Who wants to dig holes all day?

The thing about this book is how much more I like it every time I read it. I would pay big $$$ to take a plot-pacing class for Sachar. This book ebbs and flows and moves along in a way that is comfortable but never boring. The way he plays around with time helps, bouncing back and forth between the present and history of the Yelnatses. Also, the way Sachar weaves the stories together, especially at the end, is just the best, especially for kids. This kind of plotting isn’t brand new or anything, but it’s rare in kid lit, and for a lot of readers I think Holes is the first time they get to go “Wait! I get it! IT’S ALL PART OF THE SAME STORY!” and get super excited.

And Stanley’s growth in terms of bravery and loyalty and personal confidence and all that, it’s really endearing.

Yup, this is definitely one of the good ones.

Would kids like it? Yes! The characters are great and there’s an exciting wild west element and adventure through the desert.

Are there “funny bits”? Yup! Plenty! Not a ton of laugh-out-loud, but Sachar is a master of comedy. He can’t write things that are completely unfunny, even when he’s writing about our corrupt juvenile detention system or aging and dying.

Do I understand why it won? Well-crafted plot, great writing, fantastic characters. This was a shoe-in.


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