What is it
Holes is a “young adult mystery comedy novel” that was also made into a movie, about a boy working digging holes in what is essentially a juvenile prison camp. There is a parallel story that takes place exactly 100 years earlier, involving some of the characters’ ancestors.
Who is it for
The target audience is young adolescents, although younger kids will enjoy the movie.
The book and movie have some strong language (e.g. “damn”) and some themes (e.g. homelessness, racism) that may be difficult for younger readers/viewers to process.
Most of the main characters are boys and many of the themes involve the relationships between boys, so I think Holes is essentially a book about and for boys.
What Kids Like
Kids like the honesty. The book is rare in how it depicts events such as bullying, being “the new kid”, and dealing with cruel adults – in a way that is realistic without being cynical. Similarly, characters in the story endure racism and other forms or cruelty in a way seldom seen in children’s literature.
The plot is also very rich, including scenes in the Wild West, a treasure hunt, a mountain climb, wacky inventions, strange characters, and everything is resolved very satisfyingly in the end.
What Parents Like
I like the complexity of the plot, which has enough going on for adults to enjoy (and not just sit through).
And the depictions of bullying, racism, and other themes are really good, sparking interesting conversation.
The audiobook version is very good, read by actor Kerry Beyer, and has been a welcome CD to play in the car.
What the Critics Think
Paraphrased from the Holes Wikipedia entry:
It won the 1998 U.S. National Book Award for Young People’s Literature and the 1999 Newbery Medal for the year’s “most distinguished contribution to American literature for children”. It also won the William Allen White Children’s Book Award in 2001. It was ranked number 6 among all-time children’s novels by School Library Journal in 2012.
There is some strong language and there are some violent scenes.
Who Made it
Holes was written by Louis Sachar, who may be best known for the Wayside School series (Sideways Stories from Wayside School, Wayside School is Falling Down, and Wayside School Gets A Little Stranger) which has since been made into an animated TV series.
The 2003 Disney movie was directed by Andrew Davis and starred Sigourney Weaver, Jon Voight, Patricia Arquette, Tim Blake Nelson and Shia LaBeouf. I thought Jon Voight was just great in his role of “Mr. Sir”. And Shia LaBeouf really shined in his role, with a quality of acting rarely seen in child actors.
The audiobook came out in 2016 and was read by Kerry Beyer.
Holes was written in 1998 by Louis Sachar after finishing the third and final novel in his Wayside School series. The Disney movie came out in 2003. Both book and movie seem as fresh and relevant today as they did twenty years ago.
Where Can I Get it
The book is available everywhere.
And the trailer for the movie is on YouTube:
The movie is available for streaming on Amazon