Louis Sachar

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Holes Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Louis Sachar's Holes. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Louis Sachar

Louis Sachar was born in East Meadow, New York and lived in New York State until he was nine. His family then moved to California. He became interested in reading and literature in high school, though he attended University of California at Berkeley to study economics. While in school there, Sachar took a for-credit position as a teacher's aide at a local elementary school and loved it. This position and the kids he worked with inspired his first children's book, Sideways Stories from Wayside School, which was accepted by a publisher during his first week of law school. After completing his law degree, Sachar worked part-time in the legal field while he wrote; he finally left law in 1989 to write full-time. He married in 1985 and his daughter was born two years later. Holes has proven one of Sachar's most famous books; it won the prestigious Newbery Medal in 1999 and was adapted into a Disney movie in 2003. Sachar wrote the screenplay, and he and his family also appear in a cameo. He and his wife live in Texas.
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Historical Context of Holes

When Elya Yelnats immigrated to the United States, presumably in the mid-late 1800s, he was ahead of the curve—Latvian immigration to the United States didn't truly pick up until 1888, and a second wave of immigration took place in 1905. The events in Green Lake are deeply influenced by America's history of slavery, racism, and the racial animosity that persisted in the Reconstruction-era South. During the 1880s, when Sam is killed for kissing Miss Katherine, Texas was still deeply segregated. The state, along with much of the American south, enforced laws prohibiting marriage, sex, and cohabitation between interracial couples. This practice was ruled unconstitutional in the 1967 Supreme Court Case Loving v. Virginia. While it's unclear if Stanley was tried as an adult or a child for the theft of Clyde Livingston's shoes, at age fourteen, Stanley's case could've gone either way. However, because of the value of the shoes ($5000), it's likely he was tried as an adult. Trying children and teens as adults often results in harsher sentences, which 18 months at Camp Green Lake arguably was. In the United States, there are few protections available to children and teens when facing the justice system, and in some states, it's legal to try children as young as eight as adults.

Other Books Related to Holes

Sachar has been open about the fact that, stylistically, Holes was inspired by Kurt Vonnegut's Hocus Pocus and William Goldman's The Princess Bride. Both books open with short, jumpy chapters, and Sachar was inspired by the over-the-top and bizarre setting and characters in The Princess Bride. In 2006, Sachar wrote a spinoff of and sequel to Holes, titled Small Steps. Small Steps picks up two years after the inmates are released and follows Armpit (Theodore) as X-Ray (Rex) ropes him into a ticket-scalping scheme. Other darkly comedic children's novels include Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events books. Finally, Holes is notable for a children's novel in that it does tackle childhood poverty and homelessness; another novel to do so is Small as an Elephant by Jennifer Richard Jacobson.
Key Facts about Holes
  • Full Title: Holes
  • When Written: 1997-98
  • Where Written: Texas, USA
  • When Published: 1998
  • Literary Period: Contemporary
  • Genre: Children's/Young Adult Fiction; Adventure Novel
  • Setting: Latvia, mid-1800s; Green Lake, TX 1880s; Camp Green Lake, late 1990s
  • Climax: Ms. Morengo arrives, allowing Stanley and Hector to safely climb out of a hole with the mysterious suitcase and escape the Warden
  • Antagonist: Trout Walker, the Warden, and the counselors
  • Point of View: Third person omniscient

Extra Credit for Holes

Reading Should Be Fun. Sachar has said that he writes the kind of books he does (funny, with outlandish characters) with the intention of making reading enjoyable for young readers.

Sigourney Weaver. Sigourney Weaver, who plays the Warden in the film adaptation of Holes, initially expressed interest in working on the project due to the fact that her daughter loves the novel.