The predominant theme is how fate and history impact everyday life. From the moment “destiny’s shoes” land on Stanley we are shown that situations and events have been falling into place for over one hundred years, ultimately putting Stanley in the right place at the right time. Another strong theme is the value of friendship. The system of threats and rewards at Camp Green Lake accomplishes nothing, but the bond between Stanley and Zero earns them freedom and fortune. The third theme evokes compassion for victims of social injustice who have been misjudged. Characters who are at first presented as bad people seem not so bad once the reader knows their stories.
There is a mood of hardship and confusion in Holes. The characters are often struggling with issues of which they do not have full knowledge. Stanley does not know where the sneakers came from or what will happen to him at Camp Green Lake, but he must endure that miscarriage of justice. Zero submits to taunting and cruelty from people who do not know how smart he is or why he is so quiet. Elya Yelnats does not realize how empty headed the girl he fell for is and it devastates him. Katherine Barlow does not know how severely the townspeople will react to the kiss, but the results are disastrous. In each instance, the way other people behave is a source of bewilderment and then suffering. The shifting of time frames used by the author intensifies this mood, as the reader always has more information than the characters.
Louis Sachar was born on March 20, 1954 in East Meadow, New York. When he was nine years old he moved to Tustin, California. He stayed in California and attended the University of California at Berkeley. While he was in college he helped out at Hillside Elementary School, which inspired his first book, Sideways Stories from Wayside School. The book was approved for publication the week he started law at Hastings College of Law in San Francisco. He graduated law school in 1980 and became a lawyer part time as he continued writing children’s books. He got married in 1985 and now has a daughter. He lives with his family in Austin, Texas.
Sachar bases some of the characters in his stories on his own life and relationships. The character of the teacher in his first book was based on himself and his experiences at Hillside School. The counselor in There’s a Boy in the Girl’s Bathroom was inspired by his wife. The four-year-old little sister in the Marvin Redpost series was based on Sachar’s daughter, Sherre. In order to maintain his motivation when he is writing, Sachar allows only his dogs, no people, into his office until he finishes a book.
It took a year and a half to write Holes (published in 1998). It is Sachar’s most successful book. It has won the Newbery Medal, the National Book Award, and the Boston Globe Horn Book Award, as well as being listed as a New York Times Book Review Notable Children’s Book of the Year, an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, and a Publisher’s Weekly Best Book of the Year. In addition it has been made into a motion picture.
Other books by Louis Sachar are:
Johnny’s in the Basement
Sixth Grade Secrets
There’s a Boy in the Girl’s Bathroom
Dogs Don’t Tell Jokes
The Boy Who Lost His Face
Sideways Stories from Wayside School
Wayside School is Falling Down
Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger
Sideways Arithmetic from Wayside School
More Sideways Arithmetic from Wayside School
Marvin Redpost: Why Pick on Me?
Marvin Redpost: Alone in His Teacher’s House
Marvin Redpost: Kidnapped at Birth?
Marvin Redpost: Is He a Girl?