Excerpt from Holes by Louis Sachar, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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by Louis Sachar

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  • First Published:
    Sep 1998, 233 pages
    May 2000, 233 pages

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Print Excerpt

Stanley Yelnats was the only passenger on the bus, not counting the driver or the guard. The guard sat next to the driver with his seat turned around facing Stanley. A rifle lay across his lap.

Stanley was sitting about ten rows back, handcuffed to his armrest. His backpack lay on the seat next to him. It contained his toothbrush, toothpaste, and a box of stationary his mother had given him. He’d promised to write to her at least once a week.

He looked out the window, although there wasn’t much to see—mostly fields of hay and cotton. He was on a long bus ride to nowhere. The bus wasn’t air-conditioned, and the hot heavy air was almost as stifling as the handcuffs.

Stanley and his parents had tried to pretend that he was just going away to camp for a while, just like rich kids do. When Stanley was younger he used to play with stuffed animals, and pretend the animals were at camp. Camp Fun and Games he called it. Sometimes he’d have them play soccer with a marble. Other times they’d run an obstacle course, or go bungee jumping off a table, tied to broken rubber bands. Now Stanley tried to pretend he was going to Camp Fun and Games. Maybe he’d make some friends, he thought. At least he’d get to swim in the lake.

He didn’t have any friends at home. He was overweight and the kids at his middle school often teased him about his size. Even his teachers sometimes made cruel comments without realizing it. On his last day of school, his math teacher, Mrs. Bell, taught ratios. As an example, she chose the heaviest kid in the class and the lightest kid in the class, and had them weigh themselves. Stanley weighed three times as much as the other boy. Mrs. Bell wrote the ratio on the board, 3:1, unaware of how much embarrassment she had caused both of them.
Stanley was arrested later that day.
He looked at the guard who sat slumped in his seat and wondered of he had fallen asleep. The guard was wearing sunglasses, so Stanley couldn’t see his eyes.

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.
He looked out the window at the vast emptiness. He watched the rise and fall of a telephone wire. In his mind he could hear his father’s gruff voice softly singing to him.

“If only, if only,” the woodpecker sighs,
“The bark on the tree was just a little bit softer.”
“While the wolf waits below, hungry and lonely,
He cries to the moo–oo–oon,
“If only, if only.”

It was a song his father used to sing to him. The melody was sweet and sad, but Stanley’s favorite part was when his father would howl the word “moon”.

Excerpted from Holes by Louis Sachar Copyright © 2000 by Louis Sachar. Excerpted by permission of Yearling, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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