Plot: Stanley Yelnats IV’s family tends to experience a lot of bad fortune, which they blame on a cursed distant relative. Poor Stanley is caught with a pair of stolen shoes, that he did not actually steal, and is sent to a horrible correctional camp, Camp Green Lake, for young boys out in the middle-of-nowhere-desert in Texas. It is hot and dry and for as far as you can see there is nothing in sight but dirt and sand. Stanley is put to work digging holes. Every kid must dig a hole a day to “build their character.” Stanley soon makes friends with Hector ‘Zero’ Zeroni, who helps Stanley dig his holes. They soon find out the real reason behind digging the holes and it has nothing to do with their character.
Review: This book is about family, friendship, and a hole lot of bad luck. Stanley Yelnats IV is experiences some bad luck and is sent to a correctional camp in the desert of Texas where he is sentenced to dig holes every day as his punishment. However, Stanley soon gains some friends, among them is Zero, who helps him dig his holes in exchange for Stanley teaching him to read and write. Through their friendship they realize some surprising details about their pasts and their families. Sachar has created a book that children will want to read again and again. He has mixed a great deal of humor into an unfortunate situation, but has an added touch of mystery when trying to discover how the characters connect with one another and what the holes are really for.
Reading Level/Interest Level: 5.1/5-8 graders
Similar Materials: Bridge to Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson, Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry
Reader’s Advisory: Winner of the Newbery Medal in 1999 this book is great for the tween age. I remember reading it in the seventh grade and just loving it. Disney made a moving based off of it, they do a pretty good job of following the novel, but as with all movies based on books, they are never perfect. I highly recommend this book. Tweens will love Stanley and Zero’s friendship and all of the puzzle pieces placed throughout the book they can put together to create the solution to the old mystery presented.