Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Newbery: Holes

Every year, the controversy over the appeal, or in some people’s minds, the lack of appeal in Newbery winning books ignites. While it is true that some Newbery books are longstanding shelf-sitters, Louis Sachar’s Holes is definitely not one of them (especially this year in Fauquier County, since it is one of the Battle of the Books selections).

Making a jump from popular humorous books to darker and meatier books is a big leap for authors. Beverly Cleary’s Dear Mr. Henshaw, the 1984 Newbery winner, was a marked departure from her previous novels (although Ramona and Her Father, which was named an Honor book in 1978, is one of the more serious Ramona books). Louis Sachar, well known for his fantastically silly Wayside School series, hit a home run with Holes, which won the Newbery in 1999.

Due to an unfortunate incident, Stanley is shipped off to a juvenile boot camp. The main activity-day in, day out-is digging holes. Digging holes in the barren and hot desert, where there isn’t any water for miles. The administration claims that digging the holes builds character, but it eventually becomes apparent why they are adamant about the holes, and why they reward boys so richly when they find “something interesting.”
Packed with dark humor and suspense, Holes is not only a Newbery winner, but it’s a book that appeals to readers and reluctant readers alike. Not only that, it offers thoughtful commentaries on boot camps and racism. Holes is an exceptional read for avid readers and reluctant readers alike.

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