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Louis Sachar Talks to Scholastic News Online

Reporter sits down with the author of Holes to find out about its sequel, Small Steps

By Aaron Broder | January 18 , 2006

Scholastic Kid Reporter Aaron Broder with Small Steps author Louis Sachar
Scholastic Kid Reporter Aaron Broder with Small Steps author Louis Sachar at a book signing in David-Kidd Booksellers in Nashville, Tennessee, on January 17, 2006. (Photo courtesy Aaron Broder)
If you have ever read Holes by Louis Sachar, you probably remember Armpit. He was one of the residents at Camp Green Lake, a juvenile correction facility, where the Warden had them dig Holes. In Sachar's new book, Small Steps, he is still digging, but he is getting paid for it.

Two years earlier, Camp Green Lake closed and all the campers were released. When Armpit got home, most people were still suspicious of him. Even his own parents didn't trust him and periodically gave him drug tests.

But he is determined to take small steps to a better life. He wants to graduate from high school, get a job, save his money, avoid situations that may turn violent, and lose the name Armpit.

The only person that seems to understand him is his 10-year-old neighbor Ginny, who has cerebral palsy. They make a perfect pair—after all, Ginny's whole life is about taking small steps.

Armpit is doing pretty well with accomplishing his goals until X-Ray, one of the former campers from Camp Green Lake, comes around with a money-making scheme. The idea is simple; they buy 12 tickets to a concert for one of the hottest singing sensations, Karia DeLeon, and then sell them at a premium price. All they need is one thing—Armpit's money.

Somewhat unwillingly, Armpit coughs up the cash, and they buy the tickets. What follows is a thrilling series of events that bring Karia DeLeon and Armpit together. Romance and suspense make this novel an exciting read.

Small Steps has more mature themes than Sachar's other books. This book is a must-read for those who have read Holes, but even those who haven't will find this a definite page-turner.

Louis Sachar certainly had a hard task. He had to write under the pressure of people expecting this to be as good as Holes. Luckily for the readers, he came very close.

Stanley Yelnats. Hector Zeroni. Magnet. X-Ray. Squid. And of course, Armpit. If none of these names sound familiar to you, it is because you are missing out on one of the best children's books written: Holes. Now author Louis Sachar is at it again with a sequel that follows what happens to Armpit two years after he is released from Camp Green Lake.

Sachar is currently on a 17-city tour to promote the sequel, Small Steps. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to interview him at his stop in Nashville, Tennesse.

SN: Your most famous book Holes was about an innocent boy who got sent to Camp Green Lake, a juvenile correction facility where they have to dig Holes. While there, he discovers a mystery behind the digging. Where did you get the inspiration to write Holes?

Sachar: Well, I don't get a whole lot of inspiration; it's mainly me trying to come up with ideas. I guess what led to me writing Holeswas having moved to Texas in 1991, and it was sort of my reaction to Texas.

SN: When you were first writing Holes, did you ever imagine it would be as big a deal as it turned out to be?

Sachar:: No, but you know, I don't think about those things when I'm writing. I just try to write it as well as I can. I don't think about whether it's going to be a success or not.

SN: The reason you are currently on tour is to promote your new book Small Steps. This chronicles the story of a scheme Armpit gets mixed up in two years after Holes took place. Had you always planned on writing a sequel to Holes?

Sachar: It wasn't until I was working on the movie Holes. A lot of the actors would want to know more about their characters that they were portraying. It got me thinking about some of the other characters.

SN: Why didn't you pick Stanley Yelnats to star in Small Steps?

Sachar: Well, I felt like I had left Stanley in a pretty good place. He was a redeemed hero; there wasn't much more to say about him. Armpit also suffered at Camp Green Lake but he didn't return rich and innocent. He returned home and had to get on with his life, and I found that more interesting.

SN: In Small Steps, there is a pivotal female character, the pop-star Karia DeLeon. Why did you make this jump from having virtually no female characters in Holes?

Sachar: Writing Holes, I was actually concerned that there were no female characters, but I thought that if there was such a camp...they would only send boys. So I tried to stick in female characters wherever I could. The attorney's a women, the warden is a women. But there weren't many opportunities for female characters.

SN: Where did you get inspiration for Armpit's friend Ginny, the little girl with cerebral palsy?

Sachar: I know a girl with cerebral palsy. I invited her and her mother over to my house one day and I asked what life was like for them. [Note: The book is dedicated to Laura, the child who had cerebral palsy, and her mom.]

After I interviewed Mr. Sachar, he read from and spoke about Small Steps to a crowd in a local bookstore in Nashville, Tennessee. He held a question and answer session with the audience and signed books afterward. I asked some people their reactions to the author and his new book.

"I thought he [Louis Sachar] was really nice and I was amazed at how many books [23] he had written," said John Yoder, a kid attending the event.

But it wasn't just kids who were excited.

"I think that he creates interesting and very different characters that kids can relate to," and Elizabeth Streett, a fifth-grade teacher. 

About the Author

Aaron Broder is a member of the Scholastic Kids Press Corps.

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