The book tells of a young teenage boy named Stanley Yelnats. He was wrongly accused of theft and sent to a juvenile corrections facility in a vast Texan desert called Camp Green Lake. He comes from a poor family who has always believed they were cursed due to his “no-good-dirty-rotten pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather”. At Camp Green Lake, Stanley and the other inmates are told to dig one hole every day that is 5 feet deep and 5 feet wide to build character. However, Stanley soon suspects they might be digging for something in particular, because the warden promises a day off for anyone who finds anything interesting. Stanley befriends another young boy named Zero, who has been homeless most of his life, and together they find themselves on a journey for survival.
The plot includes history of the area along with the interconnected relationships between other characters and how they each affect Stanley. Themes include illiteracy, homelessness, racism, and the mistreatment of children. I understand it sounds heavy for a ten year old to read, but Sachar’s story telling was inscribed in such a way that I believe now was important for my young mind to piece the themes together. They are topics that ring ever true to our future and have yielded my passion and will to make the upcoming generation better.
As a third grade teacher, my goal is to teach my students the importance of resilience, compassion, and understanding the different families and backgrounds in our community. Holes is an important reminder that children can make a profound impact on the world. One instance in my classroom that made me feel that full-hearted, proud teacher beam happened this past school year. I was teaching my students about the Native Americans. We discussed the treatment of the Native Americans by the Europeans, and how it was not as peaceful as we used to be taught when my generation learned about Christopher Columbus and Thanksgiving. We talked about the conflict over land, and one of my students raised her hand. When I called on her, she asked, “Why didn’t they just have a conversation and find a way to share the land fairly?” This is why we teach history. I told my students that their mindset is already greater than those who came before them, and that is the mindset we need in our future for a joyous and successful world.
Ultimately, the themes of resilient problem-solving and fair treatment of others are what I aim to teach my students every day. Just like Sachar’s novel, life is an adventure and through each challenge, a valuable lesson is learned.
Annie Milan is a Bay Area native and is currently a third grade teacher in Los Gatos. Teaching has always been the guiding light of her education and career. She graduated with a BA in English Education with a minor in Spanish from California State University, Chico in 2013. She has always relished literature and writing, and started a book club for her colleagues earlier this year. Annie and her husband live in San Jose. Together they frequent the foothills taking hikes and enjoy weekend trips to the beach. In her downtime, she loves to read, cook, and take on home projects.