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Sample Book Review--Holes

Summer fun or death by the sun? I recently read the book Holes, by Louis Sachar, and was completely entertained and happy the whole time.

Holes is an unusual piece of realistic-fiction. Rattlesnakes, yellow spotted lizards and the scorching sun are all hazards of the desert at a juvenile facility called Camp Green Lake which is a strange name for it since “there is no lake at Camp Green Lake.” Unlucky Stanley Yelnats, the main character (notice anything interesting about his name?), was unfairly accused of stealing back home and is sent to Camp Green Lake, where he never really fits in. His only friend is Hector, better known as Zero. At camp, all the boys (with names like Armpit and Barf Bag) do is dig circular holes, 5 feet deep and 5 feet wide. Stanley is always struggling with his holes, always the last one done, until Zero makes him a deal: if Stanley will teach Zero how to read, Zero will help Stanley dig.

This worked fine until one day Zero gets so fed up at camp, he runs away. Stanley goes after him, and then the story really kicks into high gear.

There are two dynamic characters that caught my attention. Stanley is one. He changed so much after being in the camp. He learned to care about more people and to live by himself for a few days. The next character was X-ray. He was one of the guys that has been there for a while and knows everything about the place. He is the one who thinks he is the best and should get credit for everything. Like when Stanley found the tube of lipstick, X-ray got credit for it.

Holes is a great book about friendship and struggles, cruelty and justice, truth and lies. I have read this book four times and it never gets old. Sachar has an offbeat sense of humor and all his characters and plots are unusual but really exciting and believable.  I like how he put so much thought into this book. He made it into something that could actually happen in real life, but most likely won’t. Or I least I hope it won’t. At least not to you or me.

Once Upon a Marigold
by Jean Ferris

What if you were a princess who lived a perfect, happy life except for one minor problem — your mother kept trying to marry you off to a boring royal suitor so she could become queen? What if you had never met or talked to your best friend except by letter? And what if, after too many boring suitors to count, you fell in love with someone you weren’t allowed to marry?

Once Upon a Marigold, by Jean Ferris, is a riches-to-rags fantasy about a young runaway boy, a plain, unpopular princess, and a four-foot-tall troll. Christian is only a small boy when he runs away from home, tired of living in stiff suits, with too many siblings and too many rules. However, when he is found by Ed, a short, friendly troll, he becomes a young inventor living in a beautiful cave with his troll foster father. Through a small telescope, Christian can watch King Swithbert’s castle, and all the goings-on there. He watches the three beautiful, blond princesses grow up, as well as their smaller, dark-haired sister. He is an uninvited guest at the balls and banquets, and even at the weddings of the three triplets. But Christian is especially attracted to the younger, dark-haired princess. When he finally gets the courage to contact her, through p-mail (pigeon mail), he finds out her name is Marigold, and starts a long correspondence between them.

Right from the start, I loved reading Once Upon a Marigold. Although I’ve never run away from home, met princesses or trolls, or lived in crystal caves, I can very much relate to many of the feelings and emotions of the characters. Throughout the story, both Christian and Marigold felt restricted by too many rules, and were trying to break free of them and make their own decisions. Christian succeeded in this when he was only six, by running away from home. However, Marigold’s life was much more complicated. Her mother, Queen Olympia, was always forcing her into lessons on ruling, manners, and many other “stiff, proper skills,” never leaving Marigold any time for herself, or letting her make her own decisions. Even in my daily and ordinary life, I can relate to these feelings often. Whenever I clean my room, I feel restricted from making my own decisions because, being a naturally messy person, I tend to procrastinate and would rather spend the time on other meaningful activities and leave my room as I’m comfortable with it.

Another interesting lesson I was reminded of in Once Upon a Marigold was to respect other people’s opinions and feelings. Though Queen Olympia’s daughters’ ideas about ruling were different from her own, that didn’t give her the right to ridicule and disregard their ideas. Many of these fairy-tale crises may seem very different from our world and reality, but they really aren’t that far from some of the problems in our world today. Consider the quilt of different cultures, religions, and beliefs. Does that necessarily make any of them wrong? Just because your best friend goes to a temple and you go to a church, does that affect your friendship?

Once Upon a Marigold was jammed with many unpredictable turns and surprises so that I never knew where it was going next! The next time you’re in need of a good book, I suggest you pick up Once Upon a Marigold, by Jean Ferris.

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