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Book Reviews of Literature for Children and Young Adults
Author Study - Louis Sachar
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David Shannon, Author
Author Study - Louis Sachar

sacher.jpg

 

"I just try to write books that are fun to read. That's my first goal with all my books, to make reading fun."

 

Biographical Information

  • Surname pronounced Sack-er
  • Born in East Meadow, New York in 1954
  • Graduated from University of California at Berkeley with an economics major
  • Graduated Hastings College of Law in San Francisco in 1980.
  • First book was Sideway Stories from Wayside School
  • Currently lives in Austin, Texas

 

 

 

 

Sachar's first book
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Sideways Stories From Wayside School

Fun Facts
  • He started to love reading in high school.
  • He worked as a teacher's aide for a class and loved it. From there he became the "Noon Time Supervisor." This is when he came to be called "Louis, the Yard Teacher."
  • The idea Sideway Stories from Wayside School came from a book called In Our Town by Damon Runyon.
  • He writes five to six drafts of each of his books.
  • He never talks about a book until he is finished.
  • Mrs. Gorf story came from a creative writing assignment in high school.
  • He plays bridge and tennis.
  • His wife is a counselor at an elementary school.  She was the inspiration for the counselor in one of his books.
  • Co-wrote the screenplay for his book, Holes.

Bibliography

Sachar, Louis.  2003.  Stanley Yelnats Survival Guide to Camp Green   

     Lake. New York:  Dell Yearling.  ISBN: 0440419476.

 

Companion to Holes.  This book is a guide to Camp Green Lake and survival tips. Reviews in Publisher’s Weekly and School Library Journal.

 

Sachar, Louis. 1998.  Holes. New York:  Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.  ISBN: 

     0374332657.

 

Stanley Yelnats’ family is cursed evidenced by Stanley besing sent to a correctional camp in the Texas desert.  At camp Stanley finds his first real friend, a treasure, and he breaks the curse. Newbery Medal Honor book in 1999, Notable Best Books, School Library Journal starred.

 

Sachar, Louis.  1991.  Dogs Don’t Tell Jokes.  New York:  Alfred A

     Knopf.  ISBN:  0679833722.

 

Gary who is known as the Goon tries to change his image and make new friends at school.Reviews in Kirkus Review, School Library Journal, and Wilson’s Junior High.

 

Sachar, Louis.  1989.  The Boy Who Lost His Face. New York:  Alfred A.

     Knopf.  ISBN: 0394828631.

 

David receives a curse from an elderly woman who he helped his schoolmates attack and steal her cane. Reviews in Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, and School Library Journal.

 

Sachar, Louis.  1987.  Sixth Grade Secrets.  New York:  Scholastic.  ISBN: 

     0590460757.

 

Laurie Sibbie incites a near war when she starts a club called Pig City and creates a rival club that has designs on Pig City’s precious box of secrets.

Reviews in Booklist and School Library Journal.

 

Sachar, Louis.  1987.  There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom. New York: 

     Alfred A Knopf.  ISBN:  0394985752.

An eleven-year-old misfit learns to believe in himself with the help of a school counselor who has been there. Reviews in BookLinks, Kirkus Reviews, and School Library Journal.

 

Sachar, Louis.  1983.  Johnny’s in the Basement. New York:  Avon Books. 

     ISBN: 0380834510.

Johnny parents sign him up for dancing classes when he turns eleven but feel he is too old to collect bottle caps.

 

 

Sachar, Louis.  1983.  Someday Angeline.  Illustrated by Barbara Samuels. 

     New York: Alfred A Knopf.  ISBN:  0679904123.

 

Angeline is an eight-year-old genius but she doesn’t fit in at school or home.

 

Sachar's Series Books for Younger Readers

Wayside School Series

Sachar, Louis.  1978.  Sideways Stories From Wayside School.  New York:    Morrow Junior Books.  ISBN:  0688160867.

Sachar's first book. Thirty humorous episodes from the classroom on the thirtieth floor of Wayside School, which was accidentally built sideways with one classroom on each story. Elementary School Collection and L.A. Recommended Foreign Language.

Sachar, Louis.  1989.  Wayside School Is Falling Down. New York:  Avon.  ISBN: 0380731509.

More humorous episodes from Wayside School. Child Study Children's Book Committee and Elementary School Library Connection.

Sachar, Louis. 1995.  Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger. New York:  Harper Trophy.  ISBN: 0380723816.

More unusual happenings at Wayside School. Library Talk, Publisher's Weekly, School Library Journal, and Wilson's Children.

Sachar, Louis.  1989.  Sideways Arithmetic from Wayside School. New York:  Scholastic.  ISBN:  0590457268.

Contains fifty math puzzles and brainteasers.  Booklist and Elementary School Library Connection.

Sachar, Louis.  1994.  More Sideways Arithmetic from Wayside School.  New York:  Scholastic.  ISBN:  0590477625.

More math brainteasers from Mrs. Jewls' class.

Marvin Redpost Series

Sachar, Louis.  1992.  Marvin Redpost:  Kidnapped at Birth?  Illustrated by Barbara Sullivan.  New York:  Random House Children's Books.  ISBN:  0679919465.

Red-haired Marvin is convinced that the reason he looks different from the rest of the family is that he is really the last prince of Shampoon. 

Sachar, Louis.  1993.  Marvin Redpost:  Why Pick on Me? Illustrated by Barbara Sullivan.  New York:  Random House.  ISBN:  0679919473.

A small incident during recess threatens to turn nine-year-old Marvin into the outcast of his third-grade class. Reviewed by Book Links and Booklist.

Sachar, Louis. 1993.  Marvin Redpost: Is He a Girl?  Illustrated by Barbara Sullivan.  New York:  Random House.  ISBN:  0679919481.

After Casey Happleton tells him that if he kisses his elbow he will turn into a girl, Marvin experiments and finds himself very confused about his identity. Booklist.

Sachar, Louis.  1994.  Marvin Redpost:  Alone in His Teacher's House.  Illustrated by Amy Wummer.  New York:  Random House.  ISBN:  067991949X.

Marvin is pleased when his teacher asks him to take care of her dog while she's away, but he soon finds difficulties with this.  Book Links, Hornbook, and Booklist.

Sachar, Louis.  1999.  Marvin Redpost: Class President. Illustrated by Amy Wummer.  New York:  Random House.  ISBN: 067988999X.

On the day that his class comes to school in holey clothes they have a surprise visitor, the President of the United States.  BCCB, Kirkus Reviews, and School Library Journal.

Sachar, Louis.  1999.  Marvin Redpost: A Flying Birthday Cake? Illustrated by Amy Wummer. New York:  Random House.  ISBN: 0679990003.

Two days after Marvin sees a glowing green thing like a flying birthday cake in the sky at night, his third-grade class has a mysterious new student.  Horn Book Starred.

Sachar, Louis.  2000.  Marvin Redpost: Super Fast, Out of Control.  Illustrated by Amy Wummer.  New York:  Random House.  ISBN:  0679990011.

Afraid of his new mountain bike, Marvin finds himself challenged to ride his bike down Suicide Hill.  Book Links and Hornbook.

Sachar, Louis.  2000.  Marvin Redpost: A Magic Crystal? Illustrated by Amy Wummer. New York:  Random House.  ISBN:  067999002X.

Marvin's new friend Casey shows him a magic crystal she has found.  Things get out of control.

 

Louis Sachar

Comparison

Holes and There’s a Boy in the Girl’s Bathroom

 

   Holes is the 1999 Newbery Winner.  This is one of Louis Sachar’s most popular books and it is easy to see why.  Stanley Yelnats’s family has had bad luck due to his “no-good-pig-stealing great great grandfather.” His great great grandfather was supposed to carry Madame Zeroni up the mountain before she died but left for America before he did it. Ever since the family has been cursed.

     One day while returning from school Stanley finds a pair of baseball shoes that flew off the overpass and hit him in the head.  Stanley gets sent to Camp Green Lake Detention Center for stealing those shoes, which are a pair of Clyde Livingston’s baseball shoes that were donated to raise money for a homeless shelter.  Camp Green Lake does not have a lake.  It is miles from everywhere in the desert and the only place with water around. Rattlesnakes and poisonous green spotted lizards live there. Each day at Camp Green Lake the boys have to dig a hole five foot in diameter and five foot deep. This is hot dirty work that supposes to build character in the boys. This harsh setting is a characteristic of the new realism in fiction.

     As the story unfolds the reader finds out that the warden is the great granddaughter of Trout Walker who used to be rich and who owned the land by the former lake.  He spent his remaining years looking for Kate Barlow’s hidden treasure.  There is a connection with Stanley’s family.  His great grandfather had his fortune stolen by Kate Barlow and was left to die in the desert.  He managed to survive but when found was delusional and talked about the Big Thumb.

     At the story’s conclusion Stanley inadvertently breaks the curse by carrying Madame Zeroni’s ancestor, Zero up the mountain to the Big Thumb.  Together they discover Kate Barlow’s treasure that was stolen from Stanley’s grandfather and the story ends happily.

     Sachar’s style of telling two stories on different levels and then bringing them together at the end makes this book a delightful and satisfying read. Sachar says about Holes, "Tying everything together neatly in the end wasn't hard, because I knew how everything was going to relate. The tricky part was getting all that stuff out in the story without the reader getting bored."

     Allison Follos in a review for School Library Journal says about Holes, The author's ability to knit Stanley and Zero's compelling story in and out of a history of intriguing ancestors is captivating. Stanley's wit, integrity, faith, and wistful innocence will charm readers. A multitude of colorful characters coupled with the skillful braiding of ethnic folklore, American legend, and contemporary issues are a brilliant achievement. There is no question, kids will love Holes.”

     There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom won many awards including the Parents Choice Award.  The main protagonist, Bradley Chalkers is disliked by his teachers and other students. He doesn’t do anything right.  He is a bully and doesn’t do his homework.  He treats the other students badly.  He lies most of the time.  He is an unhappy and lonely child wishing for a gold star on the chart in his classroom. 

     One day a new student, Jeff Fishkin, comes to his school and they become a strange pair of friends because Bradley doesn’t know how to have friends.  He loses Jeff as his friend as Jeff gets to know other kids.  Bradley’s life changes from him being the bully to the one being bullied.  The setting of this story contrasts sharply with the harsh setting in Holes.

     The main character, Bradley starts to change when a new and unusual school counselor is hired and he begins to see her. She helps him to change how he reacts to others and to make friends. Even though the counselor ends up getting fired and taking another position, the ending is very satisfying because the reader knows that Bradley’s life will continue to be better because of the help he received. The author’s message about change is presented in a unique way through an unusual counselor.

     David Gale reviewed this book for School Library Journal.  He said, “Readers, like the astute counselor, can see the strengths that Bradley has, and will cheer at his minor victories and cringe at his setbacks along the way. The story is unusual, witty, and satisfying, if not always believable: a few incidents just do not work. For instance, even though Bradley has not been doing his homework, his complete ignorance of it is unlikely (``He hadn't realized. . .he would need to bring his book home''), and his total unfamiliarity with birthday parties is too extreme for a ten year old, even one who hadn't been to a party in three years. Yet Bradley's need for acceptance even as he holds back from classmates who might mock or hurt him is genuine, and his eventual success will gratify readers.”

     These two books are contemporary realistic fiction though Holes tends to stretch the reader’s credibility a little more than There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom but readers will find it very satisfying how uniquely the two stories come together in the end and provide a happy ending that is not always found in realistic fiction.

     Sachar’s two main characters, Stanley and Bradley, are regarded by others as misfits. Stanley comes from a lower socioeconomic class than does Bradley.  They come alive in the stories.  Stanley is overweight and doesn’t fit in well at school.  On the day that Stanley got caught with the shoes, Derrick Dunne had taken his notebook and dropped it in the toilet.  “In an interview with Joan Novelli of Instructor, Sachar said that he thinks so many kids relate to the character of Stanley in Holes because he isn't a hero. "He's a kind of pathetic kid who feels like he has no friends, feels like his life is cursed. And I think everyone can identify with that in one way or another," explained Sacher.” 

     On the other hand Bradley Chalkers is the bully in There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom. When Jeff tried to be friendly, Bradley says to him, “Give me a dollar or I’ll spit on you.” Even with all the negative things Bradley does to prove that he does not need anyone, the reader sees his need to belong and be accepted.  The Counselor who tells him she believes him even when he tells outrageous lies confounds Bradley.  He told her the president called him on the phone last night and she asked him what they talked about. Readers will be able to see this character in the people they know or within themselves.

     “Sachar's books blend social commentary with humor. His underdog characters often triumph in the end, and most of his works have a deeper meaning hiding beneath the surface of his witty writing. Though his works are mostly for children and young adults, critics believe that they are also amusing to adults. "I think what makes good children's books is putting the same care and effort into it as if I was writing for adults," Sachar explained in an interview with Elizabeth Farnsworth on Newshour. "I don't write anything, put anything, in my books that I'd be embarrassed to put in an adult book," he added.”

     Sachar said, "I just try to write books that are fun to read. That's my first goal with all my books, to make reading fun." He definitely succeeds with these two books.

 

    

 References

 

 

Follos, Allison.  1998.  Holes. School Library Journal. September

 

Gale Literary Databases.  Louis Sachar.  Accessed: 14 October 2004

 

Gale, David. 1987. There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom. School Library  

     Journal.  April

 

Sachar's Award Winning Book
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Holes

This site created as a requirement for
LS 5623 Advanced Literature for Young Adults
from
Texas Woman's University 
Denton, TX
 
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