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What Genre is the Book Holes?

Instructor: Valerie Keenan

Valerie has taught elementary school and has her master's degree in education.

Holes, by Louis Sachar, is filled with magical realism, mystery, and adventure. In this lesson, you'll learn how these genres fit into the story and work together in this young adult novel.

Genre in Holes

Imagine a world just like the one we live in today. Everything is the same except one minor detail: animals talk. People go about their business because the fact that animals talk isn't crazy, it's just a part of life.

Magical realism makes fantastical things ordinary.
magical realism

When fantastic and magical things are a part of an otherwise normal world, it is called magical realism. In the book Holes, by Louis Sachar, we see a lot of this genre along with adventure and mystery.

Magical Realism

Curses are total nonsense, right? Well, in Holes, they're accepted as normal. Stanley Yelnats, the main character of the story, comes from a family that was cursed generations ago by a gypsy named Madame Zeroni. The curse was a punishment when Stanley's great-great-grandfather, Elya, failed to follow the gypsy's complete instructions to win the heart of a girl he loved.

Since then, Stanley and his family always seem to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The bad luck of the curse even lands Stanley in a facility for juvenile delinquents called Camp Green Lake. The Yelnats discuss the curse not as something abnormal, but as a normal fact of their life.

We also see magical realism in Kissing Kate Barlow's story. When Sam, the man she falls in love with, is shot and killed in Green Lake hundreds of years before Stanley was born, the town of Green Lake dries up forever. Fast forward to the present with Stanley Yelnats at Camp Green Lake, and we see a troubled group of boys digging holes in the middle of the dried up lake, searching for Kate's buried treasure. The town's history is never discussed as fantastic, it's just fact.

The town of Green Lake was once a thriving lake community
Green Lake

Last but not least, the onions and their powers in the book Holes might be the most magical element of all. Sam used the onions in the town of Green Lake to make remedies that worked better than a doctor's prescriptions. At Camp Green Lake, Stanley and Zero eat so many of the onions when they run away to God's Thumb- a mountain formation where water flows uphill and Sam's magical onions grow in plenty - that the deadly yellow spotted lizards don't even bite them! You guessed it: nobody bats an eyelash at the powers these special onions possess.

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