Yelnats was given a choice. The judge said, "You may go to jail,
or you may go to Camp Green Lake." Stanley was from a poor family.
He had never been to camp before.
And so, Stanley Yelnats
seems set to serve an easy sentence, which is only fair because he is
as innocent as you or me. But Stanley is not going where he thinks he
is. Camp Green Lake is like no other camp anywhere. It is a bizarre, almost
otherworldly place that has no lake and nothing that is green. Nor is
it a camp, at least not the kind of camp kids look forward to in the summertime.
It is a place that once held "the largest lake in Texas," but today it
is only a scorching desert wasteland, dotted with countless holes dug
by the boys who live at the camp.
The trouble started
when Stanley was accused of stealing a pair of shoes donated by basketball
great Clyde "Sweetfeet" Livingston to a celebrity auction. In court, the
judge doesn't believe Stanley's claim that the shoes fell from the sky
onto his head. And yet, that's exactly what happened. Oddly, though, Stanley
doesn't blame the judge for falsely convicting him. Instead, he blames
the whole misadventure on his "no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather."
Thanks to this benighted distant relative, the Yelnats family had been
cursed for generations. For Stanley, his current troubles are just a natural
part of being a Yelnats.
At Camp Green Lake,
the warden makes the boys "build character" by spending all day, every
day, digging holes: five feet wide and five feet deep. It doesn't take
long for Stanley to realize there's more than character improvement going
on at Camp Green Lake. The boys are digging holes because the treacherous
warden is searching for something, and before long Stanley begins his
own searchfor the truth.
Fate conspires to
resolve it allthe family curse, the mystery of the holes, the drought
that destroyed Green Lake, and also, the legend of Kissing Kate Barlow,
an infamous outlaw of the Wild West. The great wheel of justice has ground
slowly for generations, but now it is about to reveal its verdict.
to spend some more quaity time at Camp Greenlake?
Stanley Yelnats' Survival Guide to Camp Green Lake
A Holes companion book
"If you're reading this book,
chances are you've been convicted of a crime and have been sentenced to
the Camp Green Lake Juvenile Correctional Facility.... Maybe you're innocentmore
likely not," Stanley Yelnats states in the voice his followers have come
Should you ever find yourself
at Camp Green Lakeor somewhere similarthis is the guide for
you. Stanley (Caveman, to some of you) offers anecdotes and advice on
everything from digging the perfect hole to identifying and avoiding the
wildlife (scorpions, tarantulas, rattlesnakes, yellow-spotted lizards,
Mr. Sir) to help make your stay a more pleasant one.
seems to be as much about a place as about the characters. Is that your
Yes. While every
other story I'd written had begun with the characters, to me this story
has always been about a placeCamp Green Lake. The story began with
the place, and the characters and plot grew out of it. Of course, Camp
Green Lake has no lake and hardly anything is green. There once was a
very large lake here, the largest lake in Texas. That was over a hundred
years ago. Now it is just a dry, flat wasteland. There used to be a town
of Greenlake as well. The town also shriveled and dried up. During the
summer, the daytime temperature hovers around 95 degrees in the shade,
if you can find any shade. There's not much shade in a big, dry lake.
The only trees are two old oaks on the Eastern edge of the lake. A hammock
is stretched between the two trees, and a log cabin stands behind that.
The kids are forbidden to lie in the hammock. It belongs to the warden.
The warden owns the shade. When you first start reading the book, however,
you don't know it's that kind of camp. You just know that you're going
to Camp Greenlake.
you get the idea for Holes?
No, I didn't live next door to a juvenile correction facility. Actually,
I never start with a full idea of what I'm going to write. I usually just
start with a piece of a character and then see what develops. In this
case, I didn't start with a character; I started writing about Camp Greenlake
and it developed from there. I suppose the initial inspiration for writing
about the camp came from the heat of summers in Texas. At the time I began
the book, we had just returned from the relative coolness of a vacation
in Maine to the Texas summer. Anybody who has ever tried to do yard work
in Texas in July can easily imagine Hell to be a place where you are required
to dig a hole five feet deep and five feet across day after day under
the brutal Texas sun.
How long did
it take you to write Holes?
A year and a half. A book like Marvin Redpost: Is He a Girl?
is simply written and relatively short, taking four to six months to finish.
In contrast, Holes took a year and a half to complete. I went through
five rewrites before sending it to my editor. It occurs to me now that
Stanley was sentenced to Camp Green Lake for eighteen months, which was
exactly how long it took me to write Holes. I arbitrarily chose the length
of his sentence early on. Maybe on some unconscious level, I knew how
long it would take.
Did you find
the characters taking on a life of their own as you were writing?
It happens every once in a while when you're writing that certain
characters seem to leap off the page and take over the book, and that's
what happened with the story of Kate and Sam. I had expected to make Kissin'
Kate a complete villain, but when I started writing about her I ended
up making her someone else entirely; it surprised me.
Why do you
think book's lead character, Stanley Yelnats, connects with so many children?
Stanley isn't a hero-type. He's a kind of pathetic kid who feels
like he has no friends, feels like his life is cursed. And I think everyone
can identify with that in one way or another. And then there's the fact
that here he is, a kid who isn't a hero, but he lifts himself up and becomes
one. I think readers can imagine themselves rising with Stanley.
What was the
hardest part of writing Holes?
People often ask me how I managed to tie everything together at the
end, but that wasn't the hard part. I knew how everything was going to
fit together. The hard part was laying out the strands throughout the
story, telling the story of Kate Barlow and of Elya Yelnats and Elya's
son, without it getting in the way of Stanley's story.
The other problem
I had occurred when Stanley was digging his hole for the first time. I
wanted the reader to feel what a long, miserable experience this is, digging
those 5' by 5' holes. But how many times can you say, "He dug his shovel
back into the dirt and lifted out another shovelful?" My solution was
to interweave two stories, bringing more variety to the tale. Stanley's
anxious first days at Camp Green Lake are set off against the story of
his ancestor, Elya Yelnats, whose broken promise to a gypsy results indirectly
in young Stanley's bad luck.
is sweet and charming, but it is also darker and scarier than your other
books. The warden, for example, mixes rattlesnake venom in her fingernail
polish and threatens to scratch Stanley. Was it your intention to write
a frightening tale?
My daughter, Sherre, who was in fourth grade when Holes came
out, surprised me when she told me that the warden was scary. I had never
really thought of the warden as scary or that the scene as especially
disturbing. Rattlesnake venom, well, it's almost cartoonish. It's like
a situation from that campy old TV show, Batman. It was never my intention
to write a grim story, and I don't think it is. For instance, I came up
with the idea of the boys digging holes because I liked the irony, not
because it was harsh. While they were ostensibly digging to build character,
the camp warden actually had hidden and dishonorable reasons for demanding
this chore. I wanted Holes to be fun and adventurous.
How did you
get the idea of rattlesnake venom in the warden's fingernail polish?
It's hard to remember where different ideas come from, but I think
it first started when I originally thought the warden was going to be
the granddaughter of Kissing Kate Barlow. And Kissing Kate always killed
the men she kissed. At the time, I may have even considered that her lipstick
might be poisoned. So, I wanted to do something along the same lines.
Instead of poison lipstick, the warden had poison nail polish. But then
I ended up liking Kissing Kate Barlow, and liking her character. So, instead
I made the warden the granddaughter of Trout Walker.
How do you
decide what is too scary for a child or how far you can go?
Aside from the rattlesnake venom, there were other scenes in the
book where I really did struggle with this issue. There was a scene where
Kate Barlow, a notorious outlaw, is being tortured by these two people
who have captured her to find out where she buried the treasure. Most
of the time, my judgments are based on instinct and experience. I don't,
for instance, experiment with kids to find out if I've gone too far.
The book is
very funny, but in an offbeat way.
Yes. Sometimes when I start reading, people aren't quite sure if
this is a humorous book or not, and they're not sure whether to laugh
at first, and then gradually, people start laughing.
Will you write
a sequel to Holes?
I don't expect to. I feel like the story is completely finished.
I don't really have more to add to it.
1998 National Book Award for Young People's Literature
A Christopher Award for Juvenile Fiction
An ALA Notable Book
An ALA Best Book for Young Adults
An ALA Quick Pick for Young Adults
A New York Times Book Review Notable Children's Book of the Year
A Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books Blue Ribbon Book
A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
A Publishers Weekly Notable Children's Book of the Year
A Publishers Weekly Bestseller
A Horn Book Fanfare Title
A Riverbank Review 1999 Children's Book of Distinction
A New York Public Library Children's Book of 1998-100 Titles for Reading
A Texas Lone Star Award Nominee
A NECBA Fall List Title
Paperback 240 pages
Yearling BooksISBN: 0440414806
In-Print EditionsPaperback, Hardcover, Audio Cassette (Unabridged),
Audio CD (Unabridged), and Large Print