August 27, 2012

#CanLit Choices: "Holes" alternatives

by Louis Sachar
272 pp.
Ages 9-12
RL 5.2

Holes, the multiple award-winning book by American author, Louis Sachar, is the story of Stanley Yelnats who is sent to a juvenile correctional camp in the Texas desert where he finds him digging holes.  Of course, he is not surprised by this turn of events as his family has been cursed ever since his "no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather" failed to keep a promise.

Written at RL 5.2 (this means a child should be able to read this at the second month of Grade 5), Holes is often used to demonstrate the following themes:
  • fate
  • friendship
  • justice
  • determination
Of course, Louis Sachar's sense of humour and surprise twists are also very engrossing.


The following youngCanLit books focus on fate and justice and would serve well as updated and alternative novels to Louis Sachar's Holes. And, for those fans of Holes who might like a Canadian alternative, these novels have the twists, turns and laughs that have made Holes such a popular book.

Banjo of Destiny
by Cary Fagan 
Illustrated by Selçuk Demirel 
Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press
127 pp.
Ages 9-12

Courtesy of his parents' dental floss fortune, Jeremiah Birnbaum has the very best of everything that money can buy, including the lessons and education to turn him into a fine young man.  But Jeremiah falls in love with the music of the banjo, and that does not fit in with his parents' plan.

Jolted: Newton Starker's Rules for Survival
by Arthur Slade
224 pp.
Ages 11-14

Newton Starker has just lost his mother to a lightning strike, the same tragedy that has cursed all his relatives on his mother's side. Armed with his six rules for survival, his trusty truffle-seeking pig, a desire to out-manoeuvre his nemesis Violet Quan, and the will to live, fourteen-year-old Newton, a student at the Jerry Potts Academy of Higher Learning and Survival in Moose Jaw, wonders whether he'll be the one to outlive the curse.

Podcast: Audio and Video of Arthur Slade's reading of Jolted 

The Midnight Curse
by L.M. Falcone
Kids Can Press
208 pp.
Ages 10-13

When their great-great-uncle Jonathan dies, eleven-year-old fraternal twins, Charlie and Lacey Darcy, and their mom are summoned to England, hopeful for an inheritance.  But, it is a curse that transfers from Uncle Jonathan to Charlie, already a nervous worrier, which condemns him to a life sleeping in water from midnight to daybreak, or suffer death.

Book trailer can be viewed at my CanLit for LittleCanadians Book Trailers site here.

Neil Flambé and the Crusader's Curse
by Kevin Sylvester
Simon & Schuster Books for Young People
291 pp.
Ages 8-14

Neil Flambé, teen chef and Vancouver restauranteer extraordinaire, does not that know that the great Flambé chefs have been cursed since the 1200's.  He does know, however, that his dishes now taste like sawdust, the re-opening of the restaurant is doomed (especially after closed by the health inspector) and he's challenged by computer wiz and rival, Stanley Picón, with computer Deep Blue Cheese (DBC), to a cooking duel.  It's a very unsavory situation for Neil.

Activity sheets and a How To Draw Neil Flambé video are available at the Simon & Schuster website

Dunces Anonymous
by Kate Jaimet
Orca Book Publishers
157 pp.
Ages 9-12

Josh is sure to win Class President, but it's his mother that wants it for me, not Josh. To find some help with his dilemma, Josh forms a club, Dunces Anonymous, for students whose parents push them to excel at activities they are not interested in. Two students join him:  Wang, whose father is chess tournament crazy, loves fencing, and Magnolia, who likes to act, does not want to be in the school play, Romeo and Juliet.

In each of the above books, the protagonist must deal with a destiny/fate/curse that is none of his doing, and must look towards his friends and show real determination to ensure that the resolution is more to his liking.  What else does a book alternative to Holes need?  Absolutely nothing!

Leave comments if you have any other suggestions for Holes alternatives or to select an age-old novel that needs refreshing with #CanLitChoices.

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