Sachar, Louis. Holes. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1998.
Stanley was not a bad kid. He was innocent of the crime for which he was convicted. He'd just been in the wrong place at the wrong time.
It was all because of his no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather!
He smiled. It was a family joke. Whenever anything went wrong, they always blamed Stanley's no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather!
Supposedly, he had a great-great-grandfather who had stolen a pig from one-legged Gypsy, and she put a curse on him and all his descendants. Stanley and his parents didn't believe in curses, of course, but whenever anything went wrong, it felt good to be able to blame someone.
Things went wrong a lot. They always seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Everything about this story is amazing. The way he handles backstory, bringing everything together at the last minute…It's difficult enough to do that in a short story, and Louis Sachar was one of the few that is able to pull it off in a novel. I love that feeling when all the puzzle pieces fit together and makes a happy ending. And on top of all of that, it’s witty and funny and just plain fun to read. This novel won nearly ever major award for children's books in 1999.
I've heard some people say that although this book is funny, it didn't deserve to win the Newbery, particularly in light of the book that won the Newbery Honor that year (A Long Way From Chicago by Richard Peck). I disagree. I believe that more books like this should win the Newbery. It's gotten to the point that if a book has a Newbery medal on it, you can almost guarantee someone will die. I think books that are considered "distinguished" should be so because they appeal to teens, rather than just being "good for them." It doesn't matter how many "good for them" novels you shove down their throats if they hate every single one of them. Instead, we need to seek out well-written novels that teens will actually read.