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Louis Sachar: Biography, Books & Facts

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  • 0:00 Who Is Louis Sachar?
  • 1:25 Becoming a Writer
  • 1:58 The Sideways School Series
  • 2:24 Holes
  • 3:40 Other Books By Sachar
  • 4:25 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Dori Starnes

Dori has taught college and high school English courses, and has Masters degrees in both literature and education.

Louis Sachar is an American author, most famous for the Wayside School series and the novel 'Holes,' winner of the 1999 Newbery Medal. This lesson traces Sachar's life and the works of his career.

Who Is Louis Sachar?

What were your favorite books in middle school? If you grew up in the '80s, '90s, or early 2000s, some of them might have been written by Louis Sachar. Sachar is an American author who is most well-known for the Sideways Stories from Wayside School series and the novel Holes.

Louis Sachar was born March 20, 1954, in New York. When he was nine years old, his family moved to Tustin, California, where he spent the rest of his childhood. He was a good student, but didn't become interested in reading and writing until high school. Then, he discovered Kurt Vonnegut and J.D. Salinger, two writers who continue to influence his work.

After graduation, Sachar attended Antioch College in Ohio, but only for one semester. His father died, and he had to return to California, where he worked selling Fuller brushes door-to-door. He eventually returned to college at the University of California, where he studied economics. Here, Sachar would have an experience that would change his life forever.

One day, Sachar saw a little girl handing out advertisements. A local elementary school needed teacher's aides. Sachar jumped at the opportunity to earn course credits and work with second and third graders at Hillside Elementary School. After graduating college, he went to work at a sweater warehouse in Connecticut, but the students were still on his mind. During the nine months he worked at the warehouse, he wrote stories about the students he'd worked with. Eventually, these stories became Sideways Stories from Wayside School.

Becoming a Writer

Sachar was fired from his job at the warehouse, and he decided to go to law school at Hastings College of Law in San Francisco. During his first semester, Sideways Stories from Wayside School was accepted by a publisher. He continued to write stories for children after his graduation from law school in 1980. In 1985, he married his wife Carla. They had one daughter, Sherre, in 1987. Sachar worked as a lawyer until he could support himself and his family with his fiction, which was in 1989. Sachar and his family live in Austin, Texas.

The Sideways School Series

After he stopped working as a lawyer, Sachar returned to his stories about Wayside School. He published two volumes in 1989: Wayside School is Falling Down and Sideways Arithmetic from Wayside School. He added a novel in 1994, More Sideways Arithmetic from Wayside School, and the last in 1995, Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger. The character of Louis in these stories is based on Sachar as a child.

Holes

In 1998, Sachar published his most lauded book, Holes. Holes is the story of Stanley Yelnats a pathetic kid with no friends7mdash;and a family curse. In the story, Stanley is sentenced to eighteen months in prison at Camp Green Lake for a crime he did not commit. The story alternates between Stanley's adventures at Camp Green Lake, digging holes each day in the hot sun, and the stories of Stanley's relative Elya Yelnats' journey to America and the notorious outlaw Kissin' Kate Barlow.

Holes was an immediate success. Sachar won sixteen awards for Holes, including the 1999 Newbery Medal. This is an award given out by the National Library Association for the most distinguished American children's book published that year. Sachar also wrote the screenplay for the 2003 movie Holes, which starred Shia LeBeouf as Stanley Yelnats and Sigourney Weaver as the Warden of Camp Green Lake.

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