Summary: There is no lake at Camp Green Lake, but there are holes - lots of them. Digging holes is supposed to be a character building sentence for the camp's wayward boys, but what Stanley Yelnats discovers is that the boys are actually digging them for a very different reason. But what?
So after watching this movie last night, I decided to do a mini-review to encourage everyone to read this book. It's middle grade and it's about 12 years old now, but it is such a great lesson in plot development that I think every writer ought to take a couple hours to devour it.
What really grabs me at first here is the premise - it is so simple. Digging holes? How can that turn into a story? But it does, and not only does it turn into a story, but multiple stories that somehow all become woven together. You really don't see it at first when you begin to read. You find out about the holes, and then a bit about Stanley's family history, and then a bit about the history of Green Lake. But how does it all connect together? As you're trying to figure that out, we've got Stanley, who's a bit of a wimp and he's trying to get along with the other, somewhat meaner boys who've been sentenced to Camp Green Lake. He manages to make a few friends - and enemies (tension people!) - and then something happens that propels the story to its ending. I won't tell you what, but once you get to that point, you come to realize that everything you were told prior to that was included for A REASON. Why do I stress that word? Because up until then, you're not really sure where all of this is going and you may even be questioning whether Sachar was just including these things for character development, but he wasn't. And that's the beauty of this book. Every element is connected. Every element is necessary and every scene moves the book forward to that pivotal point. And the fact that you don't see it coming just shows Sachar's brilliance as a writer.
I wish I could dig into Sachar's brain to figure out how he came up with such a plot. Where did he start, how did he plan it all out, or was there a plan? It's all just so brilliantly done, I WANT his brain! And then, THEN, you add to this plot genius great character development. Stanley and his friends and his family are all unique - his father is an inventor who has been trying for the past few years to come up with a cure for foot odor! And even that little character element has consequences later on for the story. On top of character development you have simple but effective prose and a memorable voice. And just to make it even more beautiful, there's a great lesson buried in there that gives you that "feel good" moment at the end. Ok, I think I've raved enough. Obviously, I've given this book a score of 5 for both writing and reader's interest.
Other little things that made me smile:
Stanley's last name is his first name spelled backwards!
There's a cute little song in there that also gives you that round robin, 'it's all connected' feeling at the end.
The screenplay is also written by Sachar and is an enjoyable family film though it is sort of boy-centered - which is a good thing. If you have boys, make them read the book first and then watch the movie. My son loved it!
The yellow spotted lizards freaked me out and had my daughter (5yrs old) covering her eyes. How can anyone stand to live in the dessert with such freaky creatures running around?
Ok, I'm done with exclamation points now. :)