I cannot really remember when I read the book Gaten (Dutch for Holes), but once I saw the movie I knew exactly how it ended. Since I will have to teach the year 7’s on the book, I decided that it would not hurt if I read the book in English prior to my lessons.
The book, written by Louis Sachar, is an easy read. Holes is divided in 50 short chapters and contains three different story lines. This is probably the only challenge, your students might have with this book. The story lines are all intertwined and related to the story of our main-character Stanley Yelnats.
Stanley is being convicted for stealing shoes. He did not really steal the shoes, but thanks to his no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather, Stanley and his whole family was doomed. He was arrested because he was at the wrong place at the wrong time.
When he was convicted, the judge gave him a choice: jail or Camp Green Lake. Since Stanley never went to camp he decided to go to camp. He thought this camp was fun, that he would be swimming in the lake. Only Camp Green Lake did not have a lake. Where the lake used to be, there was now one long stretch of desert. Each day, Stanley and his camp mates need to dig holes, 5ft deep and 5ft wide just as long as their shovels. ‘To build character’, the camp leaders would say.
But is it really to build character? When Stanley finds something interesting he realises, they are not there to just build character. They are digging to find something. Something precious to the Warden. While Stanley keeps digging, the reader learns more about Stanley’s ancestors and the history of Camp Green Lake.
The story can easily be used for character analysis as we learn more and more about the characters through the story. The book can also be used for reading comprehension and film analysis. The film, starring Shia LeBeouf, does follow the book pretty close, but there are definitely some difference that you can have your students focusing on. Finally, you can use the book to introduce your students to narrative conventions by have them create a timeline, summarise the different plots or discuss themes.