I have two classes (and a thesis!) left to complete my Master of Liberal Arts. Both are literature classes. No surprise there, I suppose. This term, I am taking Family in Literature.
I have to admit, the reading list surprised me a bit. I guess I was expecting novels starring traditional families. Instead, we are reading novels like this one. Who would have ever expected Holes by Louis Sachar to be on the reading list for a Family in Literature course? Not me.
Yet, now that I have reread this Newberry winner from my childhood and taken part in our class discussions, I kind of understand. The book represents, as we called it in class, the non-nuclear family. In other words, the characters form their own family, one not based around a parental core.
For those of you unfamiliar with the book, Louis Sachar's quirky style is on display here. He recounts the story of Stanley Yelnats (that's Stanley spelled backwards...) who is falsely accused of stealing a baseball legend shoes from a charity auction. As punishment, he's sent to Camp Green Lake. Camp isn't what he expected, though; every day, he and the other campers are required to dig a five foot wide, five foot deep hole in the desert lake bed.
Sounds miserable, right? Yeah, it seems to be.
Sachar weaves in the history of the Yelnats family (they blame their continual misfortune on a no-good-pig-stealing ancestor) and the history of Green Lake (where once a beautiful young school teacher fell in love with an onion seller and people got worked up over the possibility of a bi-racial relationship). Ultimately, of course, all the stories come together in the end for a satisfying conclusion. Sachar gives his readers a lot of those wonderful moments of realization as you watch the puzzle pieces come together.
The book is funny and quirky, Sachar's style for sure. I loved it as a young adult and still enjoyed it today. Sachar does a great job of weaving in the morals of his story without letting them overpower the light-hearted nature of the book. He's still dealing with important things (racism, self-confidence, child labor), but they are presented at a level palatable for his young readers.
There's a reason this clever book won the Newberry award. If you've never read it, I think you should, no matter your age. If you happen to be a young adult yourself or looking for a book for the young adult (9-14?) in your life, then this book is a great pick!
Date Completed: January 6, 2015