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Holes - Louis Sachar

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Author: Louis Sachar / Format: CD-Audio / Date of publication: 02 January 2006 / Genre: Children's Fiction Various / Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC / Title: Holes / ISBN 13: 9780747585701 / ISBN 10: 0747585701 / Alternative EAN: 9780747544593

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      15.05.2011 13:54
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      A simple but fulfilling tale for children and adults alike

      The main character in Louis Sachar's Holes is a teenage boy named Stanley Yelnats, who has terrible luck. He is sent to Camp Green Lake, a juvenile correction centre, after being convicted of a crime he didn't commit - he was in the wrong place at the wrong time - and his punishment is to dig holes large holes in the baking desert heat all day long, alongside various other 'criminal' boys. There is no chance of escaping Camp Green Lake, as it is in the middle of the desert and therefore extremely dry, and there is also the ever-present threat of poisonous yellow-spotted lizards, which all the boys fear with good reason.

      The Warden who runs the centre is intent on keeping the boys digging, apparently for reasons of her own. Mr Sir is the head guard and an unfriendly, distant character, and there is also Mr Pendanski who drops in to visit the boys now and again to check that they are okay (he doesn't do a very good job of this).

      Holes is a really easy book to read as the language is simple and the plot is fast-paced. I read it recently to use it for teaching English several 11-13 young teenagers, and I've found it to be great at engaging demotivated boys! It can be hard to find engrossing reads for young males, however Holes fits the bill nicely.
      There is also a film that sticks to the story well, which I show excerpts of to my students as a treat now and again. It is an excellent book to use to teach due to the many themes it covers, including those of trust and friendship, justice, legends and history, and also race issues. Holes touches on this final theme in the form of schoolteacher Katherine Barlow, who was ousted from her community for falling in love with a black man. Sacher tells us her story of how she becomes 'Kissing Kate Barlow' in order to stand for justice, and therefore a person of legend. She lived in the area before the lake dried up, and her story links us to Stanley's and the Warden's in the present day.

      The boys at Camp Green Lake are a little like the lost boys. They all have nicknames as an attempt to retain some individuality, and sharp characters to go with them. X-Ray, Armpit, Zero, Zigzag, Squid and Magnet have varying relationships with Stanley, however it is Zero he really gets to know as he teaches him to read and write. He is called Zero because the others see him this way- as a zero, as nothing- and his character goes from barely speaking to gaining power through his friendship with Stanley and his new ability to read and write.

      The book has a lovely dénouement that I found very satisfying to read - Sacher knows how to tie up loose ends and plot threads nicely! This is an excellent book for children, but it also has value for us older folk, who sometimes forget that a simple tale can be just that- simple, yet also incredibly fulfilling.

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        09.06.2010 17:25
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        its a good Louis Sachar book and i recommend it!

        Louis Sachar is a great author and this book written by him is very good.

        It is about a boy who's family got cursed with bad luck and one day, he was wrongly accused of stealing some trainers from a shop and got sent off to a camp where they have to dig a hole everyday as discipline.

        This book is very good and well thought out. Every now and then, the main story changes to a totally different story and then changes back, and then, towards the end you find that the 2 stories are cleverly related!

        The story is mainly an adventure story and told through the main character, Stanley, eyes. If you are into books sort of like The Famous Five, then you may like this book. They are a bit different, but sort of similar.

        This book also leads on to the second book that Louis Sachar has brought out as part of this series. Sadly I have not read the book so cannot tell you anything about it!

        This book contains easy language, and there are only a handful of words that some people may not be able to pronounce, so overall you should have not much trouble reading the book. Also its not amazingly long so you wont get bored reading it.

        You may find the beginning part of the story, because unlike the film, its hard to keep people entertained the whole way through. Once you get past the first part, you should be ok! Some parts are very interesting, and you will find you want to keep on reading!

        Would I recommend this book?

        Yes, its a very good book, especially if you are doing it for a project or something because it is an unusual book, different from many other books.

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          26.05.2010 21:53

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          excellent book

          Holes by louis sachar is a simply spell bounding book. when i first read this in high-school i didn't expect to like it as much as i did, but the story is truly amazing. with a mixture of comedy, horror and drama, it is very good at sucking you in.
          Also, because the book is about young offenders, teenage boys are usually quite intrigued by it, not in a bad way, but n te way that they like to know what happens when things go wrong in life.
          the basic story of this book, is that Stanley Yelnats, the main character of the book is falsely accused of stealing a pair of trainers that belong to a famous baseball player, and he gets sent to a place called camp green lake., when he gets there however he finds out that there is no lake, but in-fact it is a institute used for building character in young offenders by making them dig holes all day.
          this book is very intriguing and also very funny in some places. a avery good read all together.

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          18.05.2010 22:17
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          A fantastic story, i can read over and over again

          Holes, by Louis Sachar


          Where to buy, Cost and Value

          I personally was given this book as a Christmas present a few years ago, but it can be found in all libraries and most book shops such as WHsmiths or Water Stones. The price on the back of my copy is £5.99 but it is a fairly old book and can probably be found for a lower price. However, I think this book is definitely worth its full price, I have read it at least 10 times now and I am still absolutely in love with it!

          Presentation, Design And Publisher

          The inside of the book has no pictures, but on the outside, is a large piece of desert land, with a hot blue sky and a green lizard with yellow spots lying across the landscape. The book is 230 pages thick, in medium sized print. The front cover was designed by Nathan Burton. On the back cover in large print, is a paragraph about the story and 3 quotes about it written by newspapers. The book was published first in America by Frances Forster Books in 1998, so is recent in the history of books. Two years later in 2000 it was published in the UK by Bloomsbury.
          Alike many other books, this book is for someone;
          "To Sherre, Jessica, Lori, Kathleen and Emily
          And to Judy Allen
          A fifth-grade teacher from whom we all can learn"

          Quotes

          "Unmistakably powerful"
          Phillip Pullman, The Guardian (This quote is displayed on the front cover)
          "Written with a crystalline prose and simplicity of style it is startlingly original. There is not one false sentence."
          The Independent on Sunday.

          "This is a story of friendship with the cleverest of plot twists, and descriptions so vivid you can feel the heat of Stanley's desert prison burning off the page. A total must-read"
          The Times.
          "An exceptionally funny and generous book that is also a tightly plotted detective novel"
          The Guardian.


          The Story

          The back cover reads;
          "Stanley Yelnets' family has a history of bad luck, so he isn't too surprised when a miscarriage of justice sends him to a boys' juvenile detention centre. At camp green lake the boys must dig a hole a day, five feet deep, five feet across, in the dried up lake bed. The warden claims the labour is character building, but it is a lie. Stanley must dig up the truth . . ."

          I must say how cleverly the story is written, lots of random stories, from the past 100 years all add up to a big puzzle which Stanley Has To Solve. I've never read anything like it, it really is so clever. You Won't be able to put it down!

          Writing Style

          The story is written from the writers view, and not like a diary, yet we are let in on the feelings of the different characters. The chapters are only around 2-7 pages long, so if like me you are often are interrupted, you can easily find a good place to finish where you can continue reading later. The story is set in America, and written in American language, but is easily understood, as English And American Language are so alike now. The story I think is suitable for 10years and over. I have read this story last year at school when I was in year 8, and my whole class enjoyed it, especially the film.

          Characters

          There is such a wide range of characters in this novel, from Fake doctors to a Magical Gypsy. Stanley Yelnets is the main character, a teenage boy of about 15. His family has a curse set on them because of his great, great grandfather who forgot to pay back a Gypsy for her pig. There family will be unlucky for all eternity, until Stanley comes across the Gypsy's great, great grandson, Zero, and things are about to change for good . . .



          The Film


          Better or worse?

          Most people have a clear idea of which is better when they read a book and watch the film, but I can honestly say I think that they are both equally as brilliant as each other!

          Same as the book?

          I think that the film has definitely been set exactly to the book. The descriptions have been followed, and the film was exactly how you would imagine. The only thing I think I would change is that the book says Stanley was quite fat, where in the film he's just average size.

          Stars

          WARDEN - Sigourney Weaver
          MR. SIR - Jon Voight
          MR. PENDANSKI - Tim Blake Nelson
          STANLEY YELNATS - Shia LaBeouf
          ZERO - Khleo Thomas
          SQUID - Jake M. Smith
          ARMPIT - Byron Cotton
          X-RAY - Brenden Jefferson
          MAGNET - Miguel Castro
          ZIGZAG - Max Kasch
          BARFBAG - Zane Holtz
          LUMP - Steve Kozlowski
          GUARD - Ski Carr
          CARLA MORENGO - Roma Maffia
          ASST. ATTORNEY GENERAL - Ray Baker
          STANLEY'S MOTHER - Siobhan Fallon Hogan
          STANLEY'S FATHER - Henry Winkler
          GRANDFATHER - Nathan Davis
          MALE OFFICER - Rick Worthy
          FEMALE OFFICER - Mary Jo Mecca
          NOSY LANDLORD - Shelley Malil
          CLYDE 'SWEETFEET' LIVINGSTON - Rick Fox
          MRS. SWEETFEET - Nicole Pulliam
          MADAME ZERONI - Eartha Kitt
          ELYA YELNATS - Damien Luvara
          MYRA MENKE - Sanya Mateyas
          MORRIS MENKE - Ravil Isyanov
          IGOR BARKOV - Ken Davitian
          KISSIN' KATE BARLOW - Patricia Arquette
          TROUT WALKER - Scott Plank
          SAM - Dule Hill
          STANLEY THE 1ST - Allan Kolman
          MR. COLLINGWOOD - Louis Sachar
          SHERIFF - Eric Peripoint
          TOWNSMAN IN CLASSROOM - Brian Peck
          YOUNG LINDA - Melissa Mitchell
          LINDA - Allison Smith
          SCHOOL KID - Brooke Eby
          PROSPECTOR - Gary Bullock
          PARTNER - Jeff Ricketts
          DOC - Paul Norwood

          Conclusion

          Overall, I think this is a wonderful book with a great film to match and I am so glad I was given this book; it would make a perfect Christmas for any Teenager. I recommend this book to anyone looking for a good read so . . . enjoy!

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            08.04.2010 20:06
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            Thumbs up from adults and children in our family.

            I have just read this after my 12 year old daughter got it from her school library - and I was blown away! I can't believe I'd never even heard of it (I do try to keep up with what's good in children's literature). My husband is now reading it. So, definitely not just a book for kids (although my daughter loved it too).

            At first glance, the subject seems an odd one. The palindromically named Stanley Yelnats is sent to a juvenile 'Camp' for a crime he didn't commit. He soon discovers this is no holiday camp - but nor does it seem like any other juvenile correctional facility. The inmates all have to dig holes, in the blistering desert sun - one five foot square hole a day. But why? For me, this was a 'get under your skin' mystery - I cared about the characters and I wanted answers.

            The style is beautifully simple - very short sentences make the writing seem deceptively straightforward, yet there are so many layers in this book, so many twists and turns of plot that it continually had me turning back to previous chapters 'just to check' something. It's a real delight to see how all the loose threads are tied together - not in any forced way, you just feel your eyes are gradually opened.

            This was a book I wanted to read slowly, to savour - but I just couldn't put it down. Highly recommended.

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              04.04.2010 14:37

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              A must read for all ages

              This book is definitely not just for kids! I read this after being intrigued by the blurb and loved it and then made most of my friends and family read it who all loved it. I have since read it to a class of 10 and 11 year olds who also loved it.

              The story is mainly set at Camp Greenlake which is a camp where 'bad boys' are sent. At Camp Greenlake there is no lake and only one tree and the boys are made to a hole four feet deep and four feet across everyday. The main character Stanley Yelnats (Yelnats is Stanley spelt backwards!) has been sent to camp greenlake after bing mistakenly arrested (his family are cursed because of his no good dirty rotten pig staling great great grandfather).

              The story also jumps back to the past and follows the other characters inluding Miss Catherine who lived at Camp Greenlake when there was no camp but there was a lake and also including how Stanleys great great grandfather came to steal the pig. These stories cleverly combine to make a clever and fascinating ending.

              I have yet to meet someone who has read this book and not loved it and I've yet to meet someone who has read this book and not had an urge to dig a hole four feet wide and four feet deep.

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              13.03.2009 20:37
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              Wrongfully imprisoned boy toils and toughens up beneath the baking sun.

              Stanley Yelnats is not a lucky child - far from it. This runs in his family, and has done since his no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing great grandfather made away with the pig that earned him his moniker. Luck appears to have taken against Stanley big-time now though, as, convicted of a crime he was entirely innocent of, he has been taken from his comfortable, if slightly smelly home and dispatched to Camp Green Lake. The Camp, it must be said, it considerably less pleasant than it sounds; for starters, there is no Lake, and there's not a whole lot of green either - Stanley's new home is essentially a labour camp for errant youths.

              The children rise before the sun, head out onto the hard-baked earth that was once the lake bed and begin digging. The holes, they are instructed, are to be dug once a day, must measure the width and depth of a shovel, and are being created purely to build character. This, Stanley suspects, is a lie - but just what is the sinister Warden really looking for in the middle of nowhere?

              Louis Sachar's novel, which made a reasonably successful transition to film in 2003, is pitched at an audience of a similar age to the hero of the story; early to mid-teen. However, the book being a fast-paced mixture of styles and characters, with a strong narrative pulling it along, Holes appeals across the age range.

              Although ostensibly a tale of mystery and endurance, Holes appeals so strongly because of the way in which it weaves a multitude of other themes and styles into the storytelling. Wild-West backstories, European folklore and a hint of black comedy pepper the narrative, adding depth and substance to the novel and giving a sense of life beyond the limits of the pages. The book also touches on topics beyond the most apparent ones of the plot; alongside the hardships the children suffer under the gaze of the vindictive Warden, this is also a tale of friendship and learning lessons.

              The development Sachar writes into Stanley's character is a reflection of this - although he has ostensibly come to a tough, unpleasant, almost barbaric place, it seems to bring out the best in him physically and emotionally. Toiling under the relentless sun, he becomes a strong, empathetic individual who starts to see the world through the eyes of others. Although we don't explore his life pre-camp in any great detail, we do get a sense that these are traits that are relatively new to him.

              Stanley encounters a great range of personalities at Camp Green Lake, all with their own stories of troubled backgrounds that have led them to this place. Sachar conveys the curious group dynamic that has developed at the Camp in a witty, striking manner that occasionally dips into a telling poignancy - the boys have arranged themselves into a makeshift social order, and put together a distinct sense of community at odds with the unrelenting harshness of their surroundings and the demands put upon them.

              Holes is an entertaining, exceedingly well-written novel that moves along at a pace sufficient to keep most readers rapt. If there's a weakness it's that it moves away from its most effective sections - those spent digging the eponymous holes - rather sooner than one might wish. Though the novel gains in terms of progressing the plot, it takes awhile before it can again reach for the heights of this part of the book, where Sachar paints a vivid, searing picture of the boys' labour. Every ache and pain felt by Stanley is one we almost experience, such is the delightful skill with which the author renders his world. Nonetheless, this is a minor complaint, and one which is understandable within the greater context of the novel - Holes is an original, eminently readable effort, and should appeal to anyone with the imagination to feel for those digging in the desert.

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                20.02.2009 16:42
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                You'll strike gold in Louis Sachar's 'Holes'

                I have just finished reading this fantastic book to my Year 6 class of 10 and 11 year olds and its appeal can not be understated.

                From start to finish there is a magical ingredient that keeps you wanting more. Maybe it's the fact that you know the main character, Stanley Yelnats, is innocent or that you can actually feel the pain and humiliation of the boys at Camp Green Lake Correctional facility. Or it could be the fact that Louis Sachar ingeniously tells two parallel stories, one in the present and one in the time of Stanley's great grandfather, seamlessly moving between the two.

                My class also loved the elements of true friendship that were told through the development of Stanley's relationship with Zero, his illiterate camp mate. The way Stanley agreed to teach Zero to read and in return Zero would dig Stanley's holes for the blood hungry warden. In doing this, he set himself up for unexpected difficulties with other campers that resulted in both boys being out in the blistering heat of the desert for a dangerous amount of time.

                The warden and other campers weren't the only things to be avoided at Camp Green Lake, however. The yellow spotted lizards played a major part in the story and had the girls in my class visibly cringing at the thought of them.

                I think it would be unfair of me to reveal the plot or the ending, but I think it's definitely worth mentioning that the book was so good that we finished our half term with a viewing of the film to compare the two. I personally think both are equally good, but my class surprisingly said that nothing could beat the book. Excellent news for Louis Sachar.

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                  25.10.2008 10:27
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                  I absolutely loved this, and I'm sure many young readers would too

                  I first came across Holes when a child I was working with chose to read it to me as his reading book. Unfortunately the child took it on holiday when we were halfway through and I didn't hear the end. Since I was on maternity leave, I decided to get a few books to entertain myself and chose this. I got my copy off E-bay for £2.50 including postage. RRP is £6.99 and it is widely available online and in bookstores (as well as most local libraries).

                  Plot
                  Stanley Yelnats is convicted of a stealing some trainers when he didn't. Offered the choice of prison or "Camp Green Lake" he chooses camp. Only to find no lake, no green and the only activity on offer is the compulsory digging of holes in the blistering desert heat. The plot follows Stanley as his character moves away from his bullied, shy, overweight character and as he makes more discoveries about the facility and the people who run it. The plot also flits back into the past to reveal the stories of both Stanley's family and the curse they received from his 'no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather' and the past of the town of Green Lake where the camp is situated. The plot contains a lot of intricate criss-crossing and linking up but at the same time gives a clue of this link before stating it plainly so younger readers won't get lost. The chapters are very short (often only a few pages) which should be encouraging for young readers.

                  Characters
                  The main character in the book is Stanley and though the book is written in third person, the characters are seen through his eyes. You can feel his sense of cursedness and bad luck as well as his resignation to it from his description of events. I found it easy to empathise with Stanley as the underdog and will him to change things for himself, but I wonder if trendier young children would as easily (especially since the book is commonly used as a school text). The other characters aren't as polarised between good and bad as in other children's books. The camp is run by a Warden who seems to have a lot of mean traits, but then at times is familiar with the campers to undermine her staff, Mr Sir who is strict with the campers, often mean, but seems meek infront of the warden and Mr Pendanski who flits between seeming to be familiar with the campers and siding with the warden and Mr Sir. Also are the boys in Stanley's group who are known by their familiar nicknames. Many of these are only described slightly and it is more the sense of camerady, rank and order from the group that comes across. The only one to be featured in more detail is Zero. Whereas Stanley was an outsider in his school, Zero is the outsider here and Stanley is split between wanting to befriend Zero and sorrow for him, and wanting to fit in with the cooler crowd.

                  Verdict
                  I think this book has a lot to offer adults as well as it's target audience which is undoubtedly young readers, probably boys of age 10-14. I found the plot absolutely gripping and found I really cared about the characters. The clever links and twists in the plot are good for keeping you alert and guessing. The young child who read it to me initially said it was one of his favourite books, though it was a diversion from his normal interest in horror.

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                    16.06.2008 18:38
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                    suitable for everyone

                    I am not a very keen reader, I find it terribly difficult to get into a book, I would say I finish about 5% of the books which i start reading. I dont know why, I think i have a very poor attention span. However, I can say this with my hand on my heart, I put this book down 3 times during the time i spent reading it. I started early in the morning and has finished by 11 o'clock that night. It is truly fantastic. Its such a clever book which interwinds different plots from different centuries. I would advise anyone to read this, its suitable for children and adults as it is written on many levels, and there is alot of reading to do between the lines. Louis Sachar has written a classic, the characters and great and the plot is smashing. I cannot urge you to buy this book enough, I even read it multiple times and that is most deffinetly unheard of for me!!

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                      06.12.2007 00:14
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                      A fantastic book to get children and adults reading something a bit different.

                      Stanley Yelnats never has much luck, in fact his whole family seem to be having a generational run of bad luck, there is a possibility that he is the decendant of a man who forgot to fulfil his promise to a wise woman and so cursed whole generations of his family. But his mother has never believed that.
                      So Stanley is not all that surprised when he is arrested for a crime he is innocent of and sent to the desert to a correctional facility. There he and the other boys have to dig holes, every single day.
                      When Stanley gets wind that they are not simply there to build character but to dig something unknown up, Stanley hatches a plan to make his life easier. That is, until his best friend at the camp decides to run away.

                      Holes is often used in the classroom, and it is really not hard to see why. It is an amazingly clever book, introducing some hard hitting themes, and some very emotional ideas.

                      The setting of 'Holes' is Texas, America, at Camp Green Lake, jeuvanile correctional facility. Wrongdoers are sent to build character by digging one hole each day, five feet deep and five feet across....It is this landscape that creates the sense of adventure, which is strengthened through the solid plot development. Sachar addresses some quite difficult issues, in a manner that avoids hindering the plot with a didactic message or a predictable ending. He explores issues like cause and effect of actions in several ways throughout the story along with the issue of fate and destiny. The author also has a stab at tackling racism in the past and contrasting it with the lack of racism at the modern day camp.
                      The text can be acutely aware of itself in places, posing specific questions directly to the reader, that are challenging and thought provoking, this could prove an interesting stimulus for the reader. The specific example that stands out is following a flashback that tells the story of the murder of Kate Barlow's love, Sam. The reader is asked to think about who God really punished, after the same judgement was given to Kate and Sam themselves in the preceding chapter.


                      Many of the characters have a distinct voice, well represented in the text. The dialogue breaks up the narrative and Sachar uses it to provide a good indication to each character's thoughts and feelings, as the story is told through third person narrative, which, apart from some historical flashbacks, is focused solely from the perspective of the main protagonist Stanley. Sachar also uses foreshadowing and flashbacks that create suspense and anticipation to provide an intriguing narrative style

                      The themes of 'Holes' are challenging and varied, ranging from familiar childhood issues such as bullying and peer acceptance, found in many works of children's literature, to social issues such as homelessness, illiteracy and the importance of learning.

                      I enjoyed Holes a lot. I think its challenging themes are hinted at, leaving a lot of room for discussion, without weighing down the book or the plot. It is very carefully woven and the first time I read it I did not see most of the plot twists coming.
                      This is a good book for children who do not want to make the step into fantasy, It is set in the real world, but so far removed from anything they are likely to experience that it is almost complete fantasy. The introduction of the idea of destiny and fate also leave a door open into the mystical, but Stanley's mother's attitude to the curse story demonstrates that it is ok to be sceptical

                      Louis Sachar also wrote the survival guide for camp green lake 'written by Stanley' that might be good further reading for fans of the book.

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                        21.09.2005 18:56
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                        The important points are : A pair of stolen trainers, a boat full of sploosh and onions.

                        This story is at first very hard to get used to because it keeps sending you back in time to 'Camp Green Lakes'past. But once you do get used to that fact this book is actually quite sensational! It's a gripping story about a boy named Stanley Yelnats who gets sent to a Camp for very bad boys. Just because somebody suspected him of stealing a pair of smelly trainers that belonged to his favourite basketball player! Well that's all I can tell you, you have to find the rest out for yourself. Have fun!

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                          19.08.2005 20:25
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                          Stanley is new at camp green lake and is a little surprised at what his destiny was.

                          "If you want to run run, nobody is going to stop you. Do you see any guardtowers. Nobody runs away from camp green lake. We have the only water supply for 100 miles."
                          Stanley is new at camp green lake and on the journey sits on and old dusty school bus. As he sits with his bag on his lap he sees the guard at the front carrying a gun. He clutches the bag close.
                          "Are you thirsty?"
                          "Yes Mr Sir"
                          "Your going to be thirsty for the next ... months"
                          Stanly makes friends, loses weight, and gains confidence. A good read, Grasps the readers attention and leaves the wanting more.

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                            20.05.2004 02:15
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                            "If you take a bad boy and make him dig a hole every day in the hot sun, it will turn him into a good boy. That what was what some people thought." Is that what you think? I'm not sure. The palindromic Stanley Yelnats, in any case, is not a bad boy. Victim of a miscarriage of justice, Stanley has been sent to Camp Green Lake. Stanley is from a poor family and he's never spent a summer at camp before. But while thousands of other young Americans are having fun, Stanley is digging holes at a juvenile correction centre. Camp Green Lake isn't fun. Digging holes that are precisely five feet wide, five feet long and five feet deep isn't fun either. Up at 4.30am, the boys at Green Lake must each dig such a hole, out in the heat of the desert, before he can return to camp and rest. It's thirsty, exhausting work. And Stanley does wonder what good it does in rehabilitating Green Lake's young inmates. But he does his best. He does his best to fit in, too, although it is difficult, and no one believes in his innocence. There are no fences at Camp Green Lake. The doors aren't locked at night. Instead, the boys are contained by fear. Fear of the yellow-spotted lizard, "You don't want to be bitten by a yellow-spotted lizard. You will die a slow and painful death. Always." Fear of the desert, "We've got the only water for a hundred miles. You want to run away? You'll be buzzard food in three days." Fear of the Warden, an elegant, manicured woman with who paints her fingernails with the venom of a rattlesnake. So Stanley, the innocent inmate, doesn't waste his time in devising plans of escape. He observes quietly, and tries to get by as best he can. Soon, it is obvious to Stanley that ch
                            aracter building is not the only reason behind the digging of all these holes. What is it the Warden is looking for? It's certainly not redemption for the boys in her care. What is she hoping they will find? And why are there so many strange coincidences? Running in counterpoint to Stanley's woeful time at the camp are alternate narratives which go back in time to the days of Kissin' Kate Barlow, feared outlaw. Kissin' Kate is also a victim of circumstance. She embarked upon a mixed-race relationship and her lover was murdered by the townsfolk. She spent the rest of her life exacting revenge. Kissin' Kate lived at Green Lake too, but way back then Green Lake was a lake. Since her lover's murder, no rain has fallen, and the lake has become the desert in which Stanley must dig. As the tales begin to converge, Stanley's questions begin to be answered. I guess you could call Holes a great big tall story. It's certainly wrapped like that. Part comic delivery, part mystery story, part rumination on the justice system, part larger-than-life fable, it's a fabulous little book. According to the back cover The Independent on Sunday said, "There is not one false sentence." They were quite right. Louis Sachar has an admirable writing style, full of short sentences, accurate vocabulary and a wonderfully dry wit. Holes is spattered with the kind of delightfully surreal fatalism you find in the work of the Beat writer Richard Brautigan. It has a life-enhancing optimism which reminds me of such books as The Little Prince and Jonathon Livingstone Seagull. And it has the lightness of heart, deftness of touch and laugh-out-loud humour of Jim Dodge in Fup. Scenes in Holes remind me vividly of scenes in Catch 22
                            . And yet? it's a children's book. It's not just for children, though. Holes is that rare thing: a book which has found approval from critics, adults and children alike. I found it irresistible. So did my mother. So did my husband. And so did just about every reviewer out there. And if that weren't enough, it won the Newbery Medal. It's wonderfully abrupt prose made it easy enough for my son, Conor, aged 8 but reading a couple of years ahead, to enjoy thoroughly. He's since devoured the sequel, Camp Green Lake Survivor's Guide, and both books remain on his top shelf of favourite books, to be dipped in and out of often. That same pointed style made it a breeze to read aloud to Kieran, my younger son, aged six. He was able to appreciate the jokes and enjoy second-guessing the mystery. So it's suitable for the young ones. Yet the maturity of the sentiments and the poker-faced, humorous way of making serious points that Sachar has, made Holes an equally enjoyable read for Olivia and Sophie, my nieces, aged twelve and fourteen when I bought it for them. I think it would be perfect also for the older reluctant reader. Holes is one of those wonderful books which create a domino effect. When you read it, you like it so much that you buy it for someone else, and they like it so much they buy it for someone else, and they like it so much they buy it for someone else? The more cynical of adults may perhaps be left very slightly unfulfilled by the unashamedly happy ending, but those of us who like to be touched will join with the children ? who always like to see justice served ? and not mind at all. It's a joyous two hundred and thirty three pages, and you should read it. Amazon - £4.79 ISBN - 074754459X

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                              27.11.2003 17:24
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                              Theediscerning rather came to the phenomenon that is Holes the wrong way around, in that he saw the film before he read the book. However the film was so good ~ a joyous telling of a brilliant story of circumstance, fate and odd segments of plot roped together to form a seemingly miraculous whole ~ that the book was a must~read. And although the film was never as successful as it should have been, the book was eventually everywhere ~ even in the original 100 in the BBC's best book campaign. It even turned up in multiple copies in theediscerning's local library, after a lengthy wait, so he was able to sample the book form at last. And at least this way, you can get some form of a review of the book, and a comparison with the movie. Green Lake, in all its forms, is a place of learning. 110 years in the past, Green Lake the encampment is a little slice of heaven, made even more wonderful by Katherine the schoolmistress's spiced peaches, and the onions brought from across the lake by Sam and his beloved donkey. These onions can cure almost everything, although they fall short when it comes to the local tycoon's son?s smelly feet. Unfortunately said son gets turned down by Katherine, who is then seen to be kissing Sam. Shock horror. After all that Sam has done for the town with his limitless supply of magic onions, and rebuilding the school house to perfection, he is chased and gunned down. The real reason, of course, is that he was black. And so Katherine learns just how powerful the emotion of vengeance is. She becomes an outlaw, with her own distinguishing calling card. Cut to the modern day, and Camp Green Lake is involved in different forms of learning. The Camp has dried up as ever since Sam's death not a single drop of rain has fallen. Instead all there is is a thin line of shade, where Mr Sir's hammock stands in the middle of the Camp. The tents surrounding it are housing the inmates of the
                              Camp, which is a correctional facility ~ an alternative to prison for a wide range of miscreants, and Stanley Yelnats. He arrives expecting paradise, and finds a surreal nightmare, where water is precious, and the shortest shovel is jealously guarded. Surreal, for surrounding the tents is a lunar landscape of holes, and their corresponding dirt piles. There is a precious short shovel because each hole has to be as deep and as wide as the shovel that made it. Every day each young inmate must get up well before dawn heats the dead lakebed up, and go and dig that day's hole. On return he gets four minutes' worth of cold shower water, and can then do as he pleases. The reason given for all the digging is that it will lead to improved character, at least, that is what the staff ~ the bizarre and slightly cruel Mr Sir, and the boys' counsellor, Mr Pendanski ~ say. But is the even more bizarre and mysterious Warden relying on Camp Green Lake to teach her something too? Most of the plot is the story of Stanley in the camp, but the main selling point of both book and film is that there are many threads of narrative woven together. We also need to be told about Stanley?s father Stanley, and his weird scheme to recycle trainers ~ minus their foot odour. The fact stinky feet were already mentioned is important, as everywhere here it is a case of what goes around, comes around. But Stanley's family already know that. They blame all their misfortune on a @no~good~dirty~rotten~pig~stealing~great~great~grandfather@ of our Stanley. So we find out his story too. And that affects the present and the future as well. Stanley's biggest lesson in this book, even when he himself is teaching, is that he does not have to rely on fate. Life is not just a question of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Things may sail through the air ~ pairs of stolen trainers, sacks of sunflower seeds ~ but there are fixed re
                              alities that will always shine through. Here, at least, after a most enjoyable narrative, they include the power of a happy ending that ties everything together, and the truth of God?s Thumb. Theediscerning, as he says, thoroughly enjoyed the film, although wondered at first if the narrative was perhaps a little too jumpy, cutting back in small segments to all the various background stories that were going on. Here these are in larger segments, which makes the book easier to read, but he still started reading with a little edge of a niggle in his mind which similarly waited for a quarter of the duration before going away. To be fair, this is perhaps where the reading the book after seeing the film comes in, as he was forever comparing the former with his memory of the latter. There were bits like 'oh, that bit's happened earlier than in the movie', or 'that bit was spread out in the cinema', or some~such. Yet the narrative drive soon kicked in, its foot firmly on the floor, helped into a higher gear by the brilliantly simple language and fairly large print. Yet, as many have said, this is a children's book that adults can read. Never does the language or plot strike one as being beneath the adult reader, and its success for all ages is testimony to the universal enjoyment given by such a fine spread of stories, and the way they come together in the second half. Worry not, it does not come across as linked short stories ~ the plot weaves back and forth, even to old Latvia, yet strongly stays the same. It's a tiny disappointment that in the film tie~in edition at least there sometimes isn't enough of a page~break between areas of narrative. Also, worry not about all the talk of learning above. There is no moralising in this story ~ except if you care to make a pun about "knowing your onions", which theediscerning doesn't. Instead you can just enjoy the breeziness of the
                              writing, and the excellent stories it tells you. So, to compare film and book, to close. Because one will lead to another ~ there will surely never be the person who encounters one who is reluctant to check up on the other. Well, theediscerning thought from the film that the book would appear unfilmable. This is partly because Louis Sachar adapted his own book for the screenplay and made it, if anything, more convoluted, and more complex. Here, the simpler jumps to history are less alienating for the young. There are minor changes and bits of new information that the book tells those who saw the film first. The Warden is supposed to be a freckled redhead, for one. But mostly the screenplay is if anything an improvement on the book ~ the humour comes across more successfully, and the film has Kissin' Kate meeting the end of her narrative much more strongly than she does at the close of part one on page. The film also adds the brilliant characterisation given to Mr Sir, especially with his oddball looks added to the scene where he has reason to say "I'm kind of handsome, don't you think?" to the boys. But the biggest changes have been saved to last. The book holds great store in pointing out that Stanley is an outsider, because he is overweight. In the film he is tall, lanky, not exactly a dream~boat in looks, but he is given his lot in life at Camp Green Lake by fate, not partly by him being large, picked on and suppressed due to his size. He now seems to get his nickname and acceptance too speedily. Is this Hollywood being fattist? Does it matter, at the end? It's to the individual to think on that, but it was a bit of a shock, and while the film's images enhanced the book, it was hard to imagine Stanley with an overweight waddle. Still, theediscerning is happy to repeat that the film is brilliant, and the book is indeed in the same small class ~ although only just. For somehow t
                              he ties between storylines are less brilliant than on the screen. It remains as the Guardian said "a tightly plotted detective novel", but the indulgent genius Sachar employed to tie the loosest of connections between the most peculiar elements is not so obvious, and the discovery of the links not so outrageously feel~good. Is this because the novelty of the narrative had been lost in the darkened cinema? Theed's not sure, but remains certain that any version of Holes can be very highly recommended. The film tie~in version of Holes, from Bloomsbury, features cover~art to match the cinema release, and eight pages of colour photographs from the film and film set. It bears the price £5.99 and the ISBN 0~7475~6366~7. It can be found cheaper on amazon's marketplace, but not by much, most people seem reluctant to pass this one on?

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                              Stanley Yelnat's family has a history of bad luck going back generations, so he is not too surprised when a miscarriage of justice sends him to Camp Green Lake Juvenile Detention Centre. Nor is he very surprised when he is told that his daily labour at the camp is to dig a hole, five foot wide by five foot deep, and report anything that he finds in that hole. The warden claims that it is character building, but this is a lie and Stanley must dig up the truth.