Holes | Study Guide

Louis Sachar

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Course Hero. "Holes Study Guide." June 7, 2019. Accessed September 26, 2023. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Holes/.


Course Hero, "Holes Study Guide," June 7, 2019, accessed September 26, 2023, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Holes/.

Louis Sachar | Biography


Louis Sachar (rhymes with cracker) is a beloved and critically acclaimed children's author. He has received many of the most prestigious awards available to children's writers, including both the 1999 National Book Award and the Newbery Medal for the novel Holes. When asked about his life, Sachar tends to deflect attention. He writes, "I'm afraid my life isn't as interesting as people expect it to be." But his family describes him in a livelier way, as a kind, playful, and creative man who inspires admiration and respect from everyone around him.

Early Life

Louis Sachar was born on March 20, 1954, in East Meadow, New York. One of the few details he shares about his early life is that his father worked on the 78th floor of the Empire State Building—a fact Sachar calls "pretty cool." He also recalls moving to Tustin, California, at age nine and playing in orange groves that have since been chopped down. Sachar's older brother, Andy Sachar, provides a bit more information. He describes the young Louis as a puzzle-loving kid who mastered the rules of chess at age six and invented elaborate games involving codes and secret messages.

As a young adult, Sachar was unsure what he wanted to do with his life. After graduating high school, he briefly attended Antioch College in Ohio, but after the death of his father, he returned to California to help his mother. He briefly worked as a salesman and then entered the University of California at Berkeley. One semester, after dropping a Russian course he found too difficult, he enrolled in a program that allowed him to gain college credit by becoming a teaching assistant at a local elementary school. Sachar says he entered this program because he thought it would be an easy way to earn college credit. The experience changed his life. He had never had much interest in children before, but he loved the kids he met as a teaching assistant and recess supervisor known as "Louis the Yard Teacher." Later he would base characters in his first novel, Sideways Stories from Wayside School (1978), on kids from that elementary school. This book also contains a character called Louis the Yard Teacher.

Early Literary Career

After graduating from college with a degree in economics, Sachar took a job at a sweater factory in Connecticut and spent the evenings writing. When he recalls being fired from that job, he jokes, "My enthusiasm for sweaters was insufficient." He decided to become a lawyer and was accepted at Hastings College of Law in San Francisco. During his first week of law school, he learned Sideways Stories had been accepted for publication.

Sachar continued with law school, graduating in 1980. After passing the bar exam, he took part-time work as a lawyer and continued writing children's books. He published several more titles and met his future wife, Carla Askew, a school counselor who inspired the counselor character in Sachar's novel There's a Boy in the Girls' Bathroom (1987). Carla recalls that when she and Sachar first met he was struggling to decide whether to focus on law or follow his heart and become a full-time author. Years later, in his 1999 Newbery Medal acceptance speech, Sachar thanked Carla for supporting his dream—and paying the bills—during the long period when he didn't yet make a living from his writing.

Sachar married Carla in 1985. Their daughter, Sherre, was born in 1987. Sachar continued writing and publishing, releasing new books every two years or so. These included more books set at Wayside School, a series featuring a character named Marvin Redpost, and several stand-alone titles.


Sachar and his family moved to Austin, Texas, in 1991. Sachar struggled with the Texas climate, especially the heat. A few years later, while experimenting with ideas for new projects, he began writing about how awful the heat felt to him. Soon he was describing Camp Green Lake, the juvenile detention center where most of Holes is set. Sachar says this story got started quickly and easily—but it was slow, frustrating work to make all the pieces of its multigenerational mystery fit together.

Holes has been Sachar's most successful book. It was a best seller and won several major awards. The story has been widely praised for its inventiveness, its skillful use of literary motifs, and its deft interplay of multiple plotlines—as well as its pure entertainment value. A movie version of Holes was released in 2003, and Sachar wrote the screenplay for the film.

These successes don't seem to have gone to Sachar's head. His brother reports Sachar "hasn't changed much since he became famous." In his acceptance speech for his 1999 Newbery Medal, Sachar sidestepped the limelight with humor. Recalling his own reactions during the phone call when he received news of the award, he said, "I'm just sorry I'm not a screamer ... I could tell I was on speakerphone, and ... I felt I was letting everyone down by not screaming." But he takes his writing and creative process seriously. He goes to great lengths to give himself time and quiet space to work, and to avoid any interruptions that might disrupt his stories' flow.

Later Work and Legacy

Since the release of Holes, Sachar has published several more books. Two of them, Stanley Yelnats' Survival Guide to Camp Green Lake (2003) and Small Steps (2006), feature some of the settings and characters from Holes. Two more, The Cardturner (2010) and Fuzzy Mud (2015), introduce new characters and stories.

Sachar's work is interwoven with many themes, involving power, fairness, believing in oneself, and the importance of empathy. Perhaps most importantly, his work contains a deep sense of fun. Readers return to his stories again and again for the magical interaction between emotional depth and entertainment.

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