Latvia is a country in Northern Europe, bordered by Estonia, Lithuania, Russia and Belarus. Latvians have a strong sense of national identity, in the language, culture and musical traditions of the country, which they preserved through centuries of foreign rule. Latvia is now officially known as The Republic of Latvia and is a member of the European Union. In Stanley’s great-great-grandfather’s time, there were a growing number of independent farmers in the country, following reforms allowing peasants to purchase the land they had worked on. There were a lot of landless poor too, which is why opportunities abroad in places like the United States were appealing.
America has a long history of immigrants arriving from all over the world, looking for new opportunities or reuniting with family. Immigrants have been starting over in America since the 1600s, but the 19th century in particular saw many Europeans make the move. America was seen as a land of freedom, opportunity and plenty.
The pig lullaby is very important in this story:
“If only, if only,” the woodpecker sighs,
“The bark on the tree was as soft as the skies.”
While the wolf waits below, hungry and lonely,
Crying to the moo–oo–oon,
“If only, if only.”
The ‘If Only’ song from the Holes movie soundtrack, performed by FictionPlane:
The 'If Only' song performed in a more haunting style, as if sung by Sarah to a little Stanley:
This is a common joke and a trope often used in cartoons: if a person digs a hole, straight down and deep enough so that they go through the centre of the earth, they will emerge on the other side of the world. In the USA, the country on the other side is usually shown to be China, perhaps because the country is perceived to be a cultural opposite by Americans, and so is seen as an exciting and unmistakably foreign place for the digger to end up. UK variants of the trope tend to see British diggers arriving in Australia.
Can you really dig a hole to China? This article explores the reasons that digging through the centre of the Earth are impossible, and what would happen if they weren’t.
But if you could dig a hole through the centre of the Earth from the United States, where would you pop up?
Fossils are preserved remains of animals and plants from the past. Usually only part of the organism remains, such as bones and teeth. Some fossils preserve the original material; others form a crystal or mineral copy of the remains. In the case of fossils like Stanley’s fish, the fossil is formed when the animal’s body is covered quickly and hidden from scavengers. As times goes by, the skeleton becomes buried deeper and deeper under sediment, putting pressure on the lower layers and turning it into rock. Minerals contained in the sediment begin to replace the minerals in the skeleton, filling in any holes. This process is called permineralisation. Eventually this results in a mineralised copy of the original skeleton. This will look like a rock in the shape of an animal, or a rock with the shape of an animal caught in it.
This is just one of the many incidents in the story where the past is uncovered, symbolising the importance of history, and how the effects of the past can be carried forward into the future. As the book progresses, the history of both Camp Green Lake and Stanley’s family will prove to be very important to the plot. Actions and events from the past have repercussions that are felt for decades afterwards, and that strongly affect the characters at Camp Green Lake today. There is a feeling of fate or karma running through the book, that actions have consequences that may not be fully realised in one lifetime, but that will send positive or negative ripples into the lives of future generations.
This page about fossils explains how a fossil is formed, using a fish as an example.