Humorous and moving story has an edge.
Popular with kidsParents recommend

What parents need to know

Positive messages

There's an edge to this humorous, moving, and sometimes violent story that children really respond to.

Positive role models

Racism, both past and present, is mentioned.


Several characters hit with shovels, a fistfight, and several deaths, including murder. Several life-threatening scenes, especially one where Stanley and Zero and trapped in a hole for hours with poisonous lizards crawling all over them.


A sheriff tries to force a schoolteacher to kiss him.

Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that there's an edge to this humorous, moving, and sometimes violent story that children really respond to. Parents may want to talk to their children about the unfairness of Stanley's life, and the cold-hearted viciousness of some of the characters.

What's the story?

Stanley Yelnats, falsely convicted of stealing a celebrity's sneakers, is sent to Camp Green Lake, a juvenile detention center in the middle of the desert, where the inmates are required to dig a large hole every day. Getting to know the other inmates and getting used to the grueling routine is only part of the story, though. There's a mystery behind this strange punishment that is related to a treasure and the supposed curse on Stanley's family dating back to his "dirty-rotten-pig-stealing" great grandfather. The keys to the mystery are scattered among a boy named Zero, a warden with rattlesnake venom nail polish, and a boat that is named after an onion-eating mule and sits in the middle of a dry lake bed.

Is it any good?


Louis Sachar's HOLES jumps around in time and place as he weaves his intricate tapestry of intersecting stories. An old Egyptian wise woman whose curse resounds down the generations, a schoolmarm whose love for a black man destroys both their lives, a boy abandoned by his mother at a playground, a girl consumed with anger and greed as she watches the downfall of her family -- when all these disparate stories finally come ringing into their places, it's like hearing the perfect orchestral chord.

Sachar pulls together this complicated story with unusual characters, dark humor, inventive plotting, and some Dickensian coincidences. The harshness of the situation is mitigated by the multifaceted mystery and by the strangely lighthearted way the author tells the story. At the end the author deliberately leaves a few holes in the plot for the reader to fill in. Sachar has a bizarre imagination, and in this vivid, many-layered book he puts it to its most compelling use yet.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about belonging.

  • Why is Stanley considered a misfit?

  • Do the people around him view him differently by the end of the book?

  • How does Stanley's opinion of himself change?

Book details

Author:Louis Sachar
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:May 9, 2000
Number of pages:233
Publisher's recommended age(s):9 - 12
Award:Newbery Medal and Honors

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Kid, 9 years old November 17, 2009

good for people who like mysteries

it is a great book with mysteries and flashbacks
Teen, 13 years old Written byavidcritc April 9, 2008

main story, ok. sub story- whoa

the actual main story is ok, sometimes boring and sometimes really funny (stanley's family blames all their bad luck on a cursed 'no good rotten pig stealing great great grandfather'. when the psychiatrist tells him 'there's one person responsible for the trouble you're in (meaning stanley) stanley says 'yes. my no good rotten...) part of the history of the story, though, completely blew me away. it was about a school teacher in the West who was in love with a black man. he got hanged, and she became a criminal because of her hatred of cruel- or any- laws. twenty years later she is hunted down by a former student of hers and told that if she doesn't tell him where she hid all her stolen treasure he'll make her wish she was dead. she tells him that she'd been wishing she was dead for twenty years. the author uses simple, simple language, no flowery adjectives, and it makes it all the more powerful. an amazing book.
Teen, 13 years old Written byelizzabeth March 24, 2011

best for the preteens and young adults

i think that the book was very good but for a older age. i do believe that louis should of used a little less drinking/smoking and a little better language but other than that it was realy good. =)
What other families should know
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Great messages


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