Synopses & Reviews
Two years after being released from Camp Green Lake, Armpit is home in Austin, Texas, trying to turn his life around. But its hard when you have a record, and everyone expects the worst from you. The only person who believes in him is Ginny, his 10-year old disabled neighbor. Together, they are learning to take small steps. And he seems to be on the right path, until X-Ray, a buddy from Camp Green Lake, comes up with a get-rich-quick scheme. This leads to a chance encounter with teen pop sensation, Kaira DeLeon, and suddenly his life spins out of control, with only one thing for certain. Hell never be the same again.
In his first major novel since Holes, critically acclaimed novelist Louis Sachar uses his signature wit combined with a unique blend of adventure and deeply felt characters to explore issues of race, the nature of celebrity, the invisible connections that determine a persons life, and what it takes to stay on course. Doing the right thing is never a wrong choice–but a small step in the right direction.
"This companion to Holes follows a former detainee at Camp Green Lake Juvenile Correctional Facility (where he was sent after a spilled-popcorn-mishap-turned brawl at a cinema), in his life on the outside. Armpit now works for a landscape company while he finishes up high school. The earnest teen is back on track, in no small part due to the mutually restorative friendship he has forged with Ginny, a 10-year-old neighbor born with cerebral palsy. This bright, perceptive girl has given Armpit a great deal ('For the first time in his life, there was someone who looked up to him, who cared about him') and has 'released him from his anger.' X-Ray, another Camp Green Lake alum, nearly derails Armpit's new life when he convinces Armpit to buy into a ticket-scalping scheme for a concert by teen rock star Kaira a scheme that goes horribly awry. In a rather contrived plot twist, Armpit winds up meeting Kaira who then falls for Armpit and he for her. Even less likely is the novel's final, sensational melodrama (Kaira's evil stepfather and manager futilely tries to murder her and frame Armpit for the crime). Sachar does inject some credible intrigue here (notably surrounding the potential legal consequences of Armpit's and X-Ray's involvement in the ticket scam) and effectively emphasizes the importance of taking 'small steps.' Unfortunately, although Armpit's steady small steps result in some big strides, this is a disappointingly flat spin-off of Sachar's resonant Newbery winner. Ages 10-up." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[A] lively, compelling book with some interesting things to say about racial stereotyping, disability and the search for identity....Small Steps offers humor, suspense, thoughtful themes and great characters..." Seattle Post-Intelligencer
"Small Steps has a completely different tone than Holes....Yet, there is still much humor, social commentary, and a great deal of poignancy....Sachar is a master storyteller who creates memorable characters." School Library Journal
"Small Steps is firmly rooted in the grubby realities of urban life. But it does have Sachar's trademark humor, way with insightful relationships and deft hand with outrageous plots." Los Angeles Times
"[The characters] are easy to identify with and impossible not to root for, even if the book they inhabit feels thinly imagined in comparison with its predecessor. It is likable and readable, but it never quite emerges from the shadow of Holes." A. O. Scott, The New York Times Book Review
In his first major novel since "Holes," the acclaimed author explores issues of race, the nature of celebrity, the invisible connections that determine a person's life, and what it takes to stay on course.
About the Author
Louis Sachar is the author of the Newbery Award winner Holes, as well as Stanley Yelnats' Survival Guide to Camp Green Lake. His books for younger readers include There's a Boy in the Girls' Bathroom, The Boy Who Lost His Face, Dogs Don't Tell Jokes, and the Marvin Redpost series, among many other books.
A Few Words From Louis Sachar
Q: Of all the characters from Holes, why did you choose to revisit Armpit in Small Steps?
A: I tend to write about underdogs. It seemed to me that life would be tough for an African-American teenager from a low-income family with a criminal record. Especially someone stuck with the name, "Armpit."
Q: Although this new book is about a character from Holes, the two books are very different. How would you explain to a fan of Holes what to expect from Small Steps?
A: I can't. I'm no good at describing my books. Holes has been out now for seven years, and I still can't come up with a good answer when asked what that book is about.
Q: Could you imagine future novels about any of the other boys? Do you think about what Stanley is up to now?
A: I don't think too much about Stanley or Zero. I left them in a good place. Although money doesn't bring happiness, or give meaning to someone's life, the problems Stanley and Zero face now (and I'm sure they do face many problems) are less interesting than those faced by someone like Armpit.
Q: Plenty of teenagers fantasize about what it would be like to be a young rock star. You portray it as lonely. Tell us about that decision.
A: The media tends to portray the teenage world as one where drinking and sex is taken for granted. In fact, I think most teenagers don't drink, are unsure of themselves, and feel awkward around members of the opposite sex. I thought it was important to show Kaira, a rock star no less, as such a person. Her situation, in many ways, is made more difficult as she has no social contact with anyone her age. She is trapped in a world of agents, record producers, and hanger-ons.
Q: I'm imagining that off all the books you've written, Holes is the one that has changed your life the most. Not only did it win the Newbery Medal, it's also simply a popular sensation. Is this assessment accurate? What is this novel's continuing impact on your life? Would you consider it the book that you are proudest of?
A: Not counting Small Steps, I think Holes is my best book, in terms of plot, and setting, and the way the story revealed itself. It hasn't changed my life, other than that I have more money than I did before I wrote it. I'm still too close to Small Steps to compare it to Holes.
Q: Why do you typically write only two hours each day?
A: Small steps. Every time I start a new novel it seems like an impossible undertaking. If I tried to do too much too quickly, I would get lost and feel overwhelmed. I have to go slow, and give things a chance to take form and grow.