Newbery Project – Holes

Holes won the Newbery medal in 1999. Re-reading this book I liked it just as much as I did the first time. Possibly more so, because I knew where all the connections were ahead of time and enjoyed watching them fall into place neatly. It’s a sign of a well-written book when it is mean to be tightly plotted and yet it holds up to multiple re-readings. Instead of just remembering what was going to happen next, I was looking forward to remembering how all the pieces fit together.

The very first time I read the book, when it had first come out, I wasn’t sure why it won the Newbery. I liked it, of course, but the plot seemed a bit far-fetched and over-the-top in places. Rereading it for the third time, I am now more aware of the Newbery criteria. I can see the skill in the way the plot all fits together, and also the ways in which it accomplishes what it set out to do. Yes, the plot is a bit over-the-top, but not in a way that is not consistent throughout the entire book. If you accept any of the coincidences in the book, then you accept them all and just roll with it, unlike some books where there is only one coincidence and it just feels forced. There is a bit of a folklore-ish feel to the entire story, whether in the actual folklore parts or the more realistic scenes set in the modern day. Everything is a coincidence that falls neatly into place just as many traditional stories feature such happy chances.


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