Research juvenile detention centers in their state. Investigate the purpose of a juvenile detention center. How does the state work to rehabilitate juvenile offenders? What is the purpose of a probation officer? How is it determined whether a juvenile can be tried as an adult?
Stanley is overweight and considered a misfit by the boys in his school and neighborhood. Discuss why Stanley is an easy target for bullies. At what point in the novel does Stanley begin feeling that he is a part of the group? Who is the leader? How do the guys view Stanley at the end of the novel? How might Stanley be considered a hero? Discuss how Stanley's heroic status might change the way his classmates view him when he returns to school in the fall.
Ask students to make a list of the campers and their nicknames. Discuss the significance of each boy's nickname. Why is Stanley called "Caveman"? How can nicknames "label" people and affect the way they feel about themselves? How does Stanley's self-concept change as the story progresses? Why does Stanley call Zero by his real name when they are in the desert together? Discuss how Stanley and Zero help one another gain a more positive sense of self.
Define courage. When does Stanley begin to show courage? Chart Stanley's courageous acts (e.g., stealing the truck). Which other campers might be considered courageous? What gives Stanley the courage to search for Zero? Discuss which characters in the parallel story demonstrate courage. Prepare questions you would most like to ask Stanley about his newly developed courage. How might Stanley answer their questions?
Stanley never had a friend before arriving at Camp Green Lake. Trace the development of Stanley's friendship with Zero. What are each boy's contributions to the friendship? When Stanley finds out that Zero is the person who stole the Clyde Livingston sneakers, he feels glad that Zero put the sneakers on the parked car. Explore why.
Stanley's father is an inventor. Although it is said that an inventor must have intelligence, perseverance, and a lot of luck, Stanley's father never seems to have such luck. Research inventors such as Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, and the Wright brothers. How did luck play a role in their inventions?
Zero cannot read, but he is excellent in math. Survey at least 20 adults and ask them whether their strength in school was reading or math. Collect the data gathered and construct a graph that reveals the results of the survey. Study the graph and discuss the importance of both subjects.
Stanley has always wanted to be an FBI agent. Find out the training that Stanley would need to accomplish his dream. What other types of law enforcement careers could Stanley investigate?
Ideas prepared by Pat Scales, Director of Library Services. the South Carolina Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities, Greenville, South Carolina.
Michael Taylor, December 11, 2007 (view all comments by Michael Taylor)
The less you know about the plot before opening this exceptional book the more you'll enjoy its unusual premise, twists and turns, surprising alliances and the way in which the author ties things together, particularly at the climax, where it reaches an almost transcendent plateau. It's that good. Both kids and adults will enjoy the characters and the story. Unfortunately I can't say the same of other books by this author; he hasn't yet written another one in the same league. A classic.
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"Review A Day"
by Chris Bolton, Powells.com,
"Few adult novels can hope to attain the treasured status of a beloved children's book. One can make a connection to an adult book for a variety of reasons — literary, nostalgic, emotional, aesthetic — but these pale in comparison to the romantic identification a child develops for a book that hits him/her just right, much as no adult relationship acquires the rarified (perhaps imaginary) intensity of young love. I read Holes this year, about twenty years too late for such idolatry. Still, as I devoured it in one night, too thrilled to stop turning the pages just because my body needed sleep, I felt a familiar stirring and realized that if I had discovered this book when I was nine, I would have cherished it for the rest of my life." (read the entire Powells.com review)
by School Library Journal (Starred Review),
"There is no question, kids will love Holes."
by Kirkus Reviews,
"Sachar weaves a complex net of hidden relationships and well-timed revelations....Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this rugged, engrossing adventure."
by Mary Ann Capan, VOYA,
"This delightfully clever story is well-crafted and thought-provoking, with a bit of a folklore thrown in for good measure."
by Betsy Hearne, The New York Times Book Review,
"Sachar inserts humor that gives the suspense steep edges; the tone is as full of surprises as the plot....[N]othing is quite what it seems in this wildly inventive novel."
As further evidence of his family's bad fortune which they attribute to a curse on a distant relative, Stanley Yelnats is sent to a hellish correctional camp in the Texas desert where he finds his first real friend, a treasure, and a new sense of himself.
This winner of the Newbery Medal and the National Book Award features Stanley Yelnats, a kid who is under a curse. A curse that began with his no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather and has since followed generations of Yelnats. Now Stanley has been unjustly sent to a boys' detention center, Camp Green Lake, where the warden makes the boys "build character" by spending all day, every day, digging holes five feet wide and five feet deep. It doesn't take long for Stanley to realize there's more than character improvement going on at Camp Green Lake: the warden is looking for something. Stanley tries to dig up the truth in this inventive and darkly humorous tale of crime and punishment—and redemption.
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