Camp Green Lake is a correctional camp for juvenile offenders. Young boys who have been convicted of a crime might be given the option to serve a reduced sentence at Camp Green Lake instead of at juvenile prison. Camp Green Lake is situated on a dry lake bed in Texas. It is very hot, with virtually no shade, and only a few grey tents where the boys sleep and eat. There is no fence to stop the boys running away from the camp, but with nothing but desert for miles around a runaway would die before he could reach civilisation. There is a cabin next to the only trees on the lake – two oaks – where the Warden lives; it is the only place with air-conditioning.
Explore Camp Green Lake with this project compiled by students - The Hole Truth.
The dry lake would probably look something like this:
The 2003 movie Holes was filmed at Cuddeback Lake in the Mojave Desert:
Little wildlife can survive on the dry lake; those animals that have made a home there are very dangerous and need to be avoided, such as rattlesnakes and tarantulas. Most dangerous of all is the lethal yellow-spotted lizard, a creature whose bite is so poisonous that there is no chance of applying anti-venom in time. These lizards tend to live under rocks and come out at night, not liking direct sunlight. They are extremely aggressive, very quick, and can leap long distances. Everyone at Camp Green Lake is terrified of these lizards.
Correctional camps like this are found in a number of US states, and are modelled on military training camps. They are intended to teach children discipline and respect, with a programme of intense physical training that serves both as a punishment and as a character-building activity. This is highly controversial, with many claiming that the camps only reinforce negative feelings and behaviour, and that the methods used at such camps are abusive.
In the 19th century, over a hundred years before Stanley comes to Camp Green Lake, there was a beautiful and flourishing town at Green Lake. The lake was full of water and fish, and the surrounding land was green and fertile. There were peach trees along the shore that the locals used to make peach jam and peach pies. On the other side of the lake Sam grew onions; he would row across the lake to sell them to the town.
Green Lake was a small town, with a one-room schoolhouse run by Katherine Barlow. Being a small town, the people in it all knew each other and tended to be rather nosy. It was also quite a small-minded town, with prejudice and racism lying under the pretty surface. When the townspeople killed Sam, an African American, for kissing a white woman, the town began to die. No more rain ever fell on the lake or the surrounding land. The lake dried up and so did the land, and the town grew poorer and poorer until it was abandoned. Now there is only dry ground and a camp for juvenile offenders at Green Lake. Only occasional objects unearthed by the boys, such as the fish fossil and Kate’s lipstick, reveal the history of the site.
On the other side of the dry lake is a mountain with a peculiarly shaped rock at the top. If looked at from the right angle, it looks a little like a thumb sticking up into the sky. This is known as ‘God’s Thumb’.
Stanley’s great-grandfather, who was also called Stanley Yelnats, took refuge at the site when he was robbed in the desert by the bandit Kissin’ Kate. He claims to have found water and food there, without which he would have died. Later, when Zero runs away from camp and gets sick, Stanley sees the rock and remembers the story of his great-grandfather. He carries Zero up the mountain and finds water and onions at the top. This is the site where Sam grew his onions years ago.
Most of the story takes place in the state of Texas, where Camp Green Lake is situated. Texas is the second-largest state in the USA, and borders Mexico. It is a very rich state, due to oil, the cattle industry, and computer and science industries. Being such a large state, it has ten different climate regions; in the desert, temperatures can reach 35-40°C (95-104°F) in summer. Texas is home to practically every kind of scenery, from rolling hills and forests, prairies and steppe, to deserts and mountains.
In his acceptance speech for the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award, Louis Sachar said that “Holes was inspired by my dislike of the hot Texas summer.”
Stanley’s great-great-grandfather Elya lived in Latvia before he immigrated to the United States. Latvia is a country in north-east Europe, on the Baltic Sea. In Elya’s time a large part of the country was farmland, and there were a growing number of independent farmers who purchased the land they had previously worked on. At the same time, however, there were many landless poor, for whom opportunities abroad in places like the United States were very appealing.
Latvia has a temperate climate, with harsher winters away from the coastal areas. The land is made up of forests and large fertile plains. It is a beautiful country with four national parks (the first established in the 1970s) and a strong tradition of conservation. The main language is Latvian and the principal religion is Christianity.