Small Steps



Holes sequel delves into edgier territory.

What parents need to know

Educational value

This will appeal to fans of Holes -- it's fun to read and may get readers thinking about the book's bigger ideas.

Positive messages

Armpit doesn't always make the right choices, but ultimately he has a good heart and figures things out in time to make a heroic move.  

Positive role models

Armpit does go along with X-Ray to scalp tickets and lie to the police -- but he begins the book committed to rehabilitating himself. Readers will find it easy to root for him.


Fights, a stabbing, attempted murder with a baseball bat.


Several kisses. Armpit and Kaira strike up a romance. Kaira's bodyguard sees her with her top open, X-Ray hoots at a girl, who flips him off, Kaira tells an audience she's a virgin.


A few mild epithets.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

X-Ray sells parsley as if it's marijuana, Armpit's parents believe he's using drugs and ask for urine samples, an ex-ball player used steroids, band members drink and smoke.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this is a better choice for tweens and teens -- young kids who liked Holes may not be quite ready for the edgy material here.  There are references to sex and drugs, a bit of pretty nasty violence, and the hero is involved, mostly through stupidity, in some shady dealings. Armpit doesn't always make the right choices, but ultimately he has a
good heart and figures things out in time to make a heroic

What's the story?

At the end of Holes, Camp Green Lake had been shut down and the boys released. After spending time in a halfway house, Theodore (nicknamed Armpit) is working hard to get his life back on track. He has a job, is taking extra classes to graduate from high school, and is saving his money while trying to stay out of trouble. He has even befriended the young girl next door who has cerebral palsy. But then X-Ray shows up with a get-rich-quick scheme that involves scalping tickets to a concert by Kaira DeLeon, the latest teen pop sensation. From there the story gets complicated. Armpit meets Kaira and they strike up a tentative romance. X-Ray goes beyond scalping to counterfeiting, and both the police and rival scalpers come after both of them. And Kaira's manager/stepfather plans to murder her and pin it on Armpit.

Is it any good?


Holes was a masterpiece of craftsmanship, a complex symphony of disparate thematic elements and vibrant characters woven together in intricate pattern that resolved perfectly. It's hard to believe that SMALL STEPS was written by the same author: This is more of a tangle of elements that resolves into an ill-fitting mess.

Louis Sachar knows how to write a fun and enjoyable book. But Holes set the bar a lot higher, and for the sequel to that Newbery Medalist and National Book Award winner something more is expected -- a higher degree of craftsmanship, depth, sophistication, and emotional power, all of which are missing here. Fans of the first book will no doubt want to read it and may even enjoy it (though the romance section of the book appeals to an entirely different audience), but they won't find it as memorable or as powerful.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about sequels. What do you think compels authors to write them? Can a sequel ever live up to a book like Holes, which received so many positive reviews and awards?

  • This book has some edgy material, even though it is marketed for 10+. Common Sense Media gave it a 12+ rating, even though it marked Holes at 9+ -- what do you think? Parents may want to encourage kids to leave their own age recommendations (and overall opinion) by signing into the site and writing a short review.

Book details

Author:Louis Sachar
Genre:Contemporary Fiction
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Delacorte Press
Publication date:January 9, 2006
Number of pages:257
Publisher's recommended age(s):10

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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, 11 years old August 4, 2009
I think this was an amazing book! Kiara was a great role model and how Armpit was trying to turn his life around was so positive! I read it with my book club run by two eleven year-olds with all eleven year olds in it. It was awesome, but for anyone under the age of ten i would advise that the parent/gaurdian flips through the book first.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Great messages
Great role models
Kid, 12 years old November 3, 2010
violence: a person gets a seizure;a singer is nearly killed with a baseball bat, a stabbing. s:a singer sing sexy songs and says her songs aare about sex, but she is a virgin.Drug: X-ray sells parsley like marijuana. But it is unlike holes.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Great messages
Great role models
Teen, 13 years old Written bycarrs February 10, 2010

perfect for kids over 12

I like samll steps because it is very interesting and X-ray trys to sell tickets but there fake and gets sent to a camo called Green lake i also think its good becuase Armpits always getting him self into trouble.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models


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