“I’m not saying it’s going to be easy. Nothing in life is easy. But that’s no reason to give up. You’ll be surprised what you can accomplish if you set your mind to it. After all, you only have one life, so you should try to make the most of it.”

This winner of the Newbery Medal and the National Book Award features Stanley Yelnats, a kid who is under a curse. A curse that began with his no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather and has since followed generations of Yelnats.

Now Stanley has been unjustly sent to a boys’ detention center, Camp Green Lake, where 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 warden is looking for something. Stanley tries to dig up the truth in this inventive and darkly humorous tale of crime, punishment, and redemption.

The Story

Stanley Yelnats isn’t a criminal; he didn’t steal a car or rob a bank. He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Doing something he thought would benefit his father, the inventor, and his mother.

“You may have done some bad things, but that doesn’t mean you’re a bad kid.”

Stanley, or ‘Caveman’ as the boys at Camp Green Lake call him, is a juvenile with a disturbing secret. He is the stereotypical bullied child, because he is overweight. He never knew what real friends were, until he met the colourfully named ‘Armpit’, ‘X-ray’, ‘Zero’, ‘Zig-Zag’ and ‘Squid’.

When you spend your whole life living in a hole, the only way you can go is up. (Zero/Hector Zeroni)”

This book is inspiring to myself and hopefully many others, because it teaches you about loyalty, true friendship and not judging others by their looks – or their unfortunate mistakes in life.

I would recommend this book to children above the age of 9, as those of a weak-hearted disposition may not appreciate Louis Sachar’s amazing descriptive skills and the occasional poetry.

“If only, if only, the moon speaks no reply;
Reflecting the sun and all that’s gone by.
Be strong my weary wolf, turn around boldly.
Fly high my baby bird, My angel, my only.”

Conclusion

Thoughtful and studious read. I can’t say anything bad about the book, since every chapter made perfect sense. It just didn’t bring out any emotion in me. Also, I found myself a bit bored throughout the flashbacks. Mostly, I think the biggest problem is that I’m too old for this book, even though I know it sounds a little pretentious.

The content really isn’t appropriate for young children. It is quite violent and, at times, sadistic. While the overall themes are friendship, loyalty, and redemption (all positive), the book contains a planned racially motivated lynching, murder by gunshot to the head, sexual harassment, torture by rattlesnake venom, child abuse, child abandonment, and one reference to being drunk on whiskey. All of these items, in one book, make it pretty dark and potentially scary for kids younger than middle school. Age appropriate readers will likely enjoy the book for its more positive messages and humor, although the ending is a bit hokey.

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