Chapter 1

Camp Green Lake is not a lake anymore: over hundred years ago the lake dried up and the people of the little town next to the lake moved away. They left that place not only because there was no lake anymore, but also because the temperature was usually about ninety degrees. In the holes dug by the campers we can find rattlesnakes and scorpions, but the most dangerous animal at the camp are yellow-spotted lizards. If someone is bitten by one of those, there is nothing you can do anymore to survive.

Chapter 2

Now Camp Green Lake is a camp for bad boys that had committed a crime, instead of going to jail. They have to dig a hole every day under the hot sun to get more educated and to become good boys. Stanley Yelnats was given a choice. He could choice between jail or Camp Green Lake. He chose the camp because he had never been to a camp before, because his family was poor.

Chapter 3

Stanley rode to Camp Green Lake on a bus, being the only passenger. He thought he was going to go to one of the camps where the rich children go and hoped he would find some friends. Stanley had been arrested for a crime he did not commit. Stanley and his family always seem to be at the wrong place at the wrong time and they blame their bad luck on Stanley’s no-good-dirty-rotten- pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather. This great-great-grandfather had stolen a pig from a Gypsy who put a curse on the great- great-grandfather and his descendants. Although they do not believe in curses, but they think they are very unlucky. Stanley’s father is an inventor, but because he never has any luck his inventions never work. The first Stanley Yelnats, the protagonist’s great grandfather, was robbed by Kissin’ Kate Barlow. If Stanley’s great grandfather had not been robbed, Stanley might be living in a mansion in California instead of in a Texas apartment that smelles of burning rubber and foot odor caused by Stanley’s father’s attempts to invent a way to recycle old sneakers. Stanley thinks it is cool that his great-grandfather was robbed by an outlaw. Kate Barlow only kissed the men she killed so she did not actually kiss Stanley’s great-grandfather because she did not kill him. Stanley arrived at Camp Green Lake, after a ride of about nine hours.

Chapter 4

The only things he saw when he left the bus were a few tents, a few buildings, and two trees by a cabin. The only plants were two trees, there were not even weeds. Stanley went into one of the buildings where he met Mr. Sir inside. Mr. Sir was eating sunflower seeds and said that they are his substitute for smoking. Mr. Sir introduced himself and commanded Stanley to always call him Mr. Sir when he talked to him. Then he tells Stanley, “You’re not in the Girl Scouts anymore.” Mr. Sir give Stanley two sets of orange jumpsuits, orange T-shirts, yellow socks, and one towel. Mr. Sir then told Stanley that one set of clothing was for working and the other was for his free time. He had to dig one hole every day, even on weekends. Every hole had to be five feet deep and five feet across. His shovel was five feet long and was to be used as a measuring stick. Breakfast was at 4:30am so that the boys could work before the sun was out and the day got hotter.

Chapter 5

There were six tents labeled A through F. The counselors slept in tent F and the campers, or juvenile delinquents, slept in the other tents. Stanley was assigned to tent D with Mr. Pendanski as his counselor. Mr. Pendanski was very friendly and showed Stanley everything. Pendanski introduced Stanley to the other campers. The campers all had real names and nicknames. Mr. Pendanski introduced Rex and Alan but their nicknames were X-Ray and Squid. X-Ray wore glasses and asked where Barf Bag was. Mr. Pendanski, who called the campers by their birth names, said that Lewis was in a hospital and would not be returning. Mr. Pendanski introduces José, Theodore, and Ricky as well. They are also known as Magnet, Armpit, and Zigzag. Zero is the last boy that Stanley meets. The boys called the counselor “mom”.

Chapter 6

Because there was no hot water Stanley had to have a cold shower. He ate a disgusting dinner, and one of the campers asked him for what reason he was at the camp. Stanley told him that he had stolen a pair of sneakers from the famous baseball player Clyde “Sweet Feet” Livingston. He didn’t tell them he was innocent. He knew nobody would believe him. When Stanley went back to his smelly cot he thought on the crime he didn’t commit. The day Stanley was arrested he had to walk home because he had missed the bus. While he was walking, a pair of shoes had fallen from a freeway overpass, and hit him on the head. Since his father was doing experiments with shoes, especially sneakers, Stanley ran home to bring them to his father. The shoes had smelled very bad. Because he was running, a police car pulled him over and took the shoes. Stanley later found out that the shoes belonged to Clyde Livingston and had been donated to a homeless shelter to raise money. Stanley was convicted of stealing the shoes and sent to Camp Green Lake.

Chapter 7

The next day Stanley had to dig his first hole and it was very hard for him. His hands hurt very much, but Mr. Pendanski told him this was good to build character. Stanley’s great-great-grandfather was from Latvia and his name was Elya Yelnats. When he was fifteen he fell in love with a fourteen year old girl: Myra Menke. Elya wanted to marry her but so did Igor Barkov, a fifty-seven year old pig farmer. Elya couldn’t offer Myra’s father a such big pig like Igor could so he visited Madame Zeroni, an old Egyptian woman with only one foot. She told Elya to go to America and to forget Myra, because she was a pretty but quite stupid girl. However, Elya couldn’t stop thinking about her. So Madame Zeroni gave him a little pig and told him to carry it up the mountain every day and to let it drink from the stream with water that runs uphill. So the pig would grow from day to day and it would be bigger than Igor’s one. She also made Elya promise that after he showd the pig to Myra’s father he had to carry her, Madame Zeroni, up the mountain and sing to her. If he didn’t, then she said she will put a curse on his family. But on the day that he brang the pig to Myra’s house he realized that Myra is very stupid and that she didn’t even care who she married. Disillusioned, Elya got on a boat bound for America, forgetting his promise to Madame Zeroni. In America he learnd English and married a woman who was strong and smart. Elya and his wife had a son who they named Stanley Yelnats because they liked that Stanley is Yelnats spelled backwards. Even though they all worked so hard, they had a lot of bad luck in their lives and Elya began to believe that Madame Zeroni had cursed him.

Chapter 8

The dangerous yellow-spotted lizard have eleven yellow spots, which are hard to see on their yellow-green body. They have black very teeth, and white tongues. They live in holes, which offer them shade. They eat small animals, insects, cactus thorns and sunflower seeds.

Chapter 9

After digging his first hole, Stanley returned to the camp. Stanley bumped into a large boy who trieed to pick a fight with him. Stanley tried to avoid the fight and X-Ray and Armpit came to his rescue saying, “You don’t want to mess with the Caveman.” Stanley, Armpit, Squid, and X-Ray talked about the trouble of digging holes. Stanley has brought his box of paper to the wreck room because he wanted to write a letter to his mother. In the letter he told her he was having a good time. In the middle of writing his letter Stanley noticed that Zero was staring at his letter. Zero asked him, “Did the shoes have red X’s on the back?” Stanley responded that they did and then the two heard Armpit and Squid calling Caveman to come to dinner. Stanley realizes that his nickname was Caveman.

Chapter 10

Stanley’s second hole was even harder to dig than the first one. His whole body hurt and he was so tired because he hadn’t any sleep. While he was digging he found a fish fossil. Mr. Pendanski once told him that if he would find anything interesting he might not have to finish his hole, if the Warden likes the thing he found. When the water truck came Stanley noticed that there was always an order to the line, and he was the last one. Stanley showed the fish fossil to Mr. Pendanski but he said that the fossil was not what the Warden wanted. Stanley had to finish digging his hole.

Chapter 11

X-Ray told Stanley to give him anything else interesting that he found in his hole. X- Ray explained him that his nickname was pig latin for his real name, Rex. Stanley agreed because he wanted X-Ray to like him. Stanley wonders why everyone follows what X-Ray does. He realized that X-Ray was the smallest boy apart from Zero and that he, Stanley, was actually the largest boy.

Chapter 12

After, when Stanley finished digging his second hole he returned to camp, Mr. Pendanski talked with him and the rest of his group. Mr. Pendanski asked each boy what he wanted to do as a career, after leaving Camp Green Lake. Zero was silent at first but then he replied that he likes digging holes.

Chapter 13

In the next days, Stanley found a small gold tube with a heart engraved on it. Inside the heart are engraved the initials KB. He has told X-Ray that he would give him anything he found so that X-Ray could have the day off. Reluctantly, Stanley gave X-Ray the tube. Because it was almost the end of the day, Stanley suggested that X-Ray kept the tube until the next day so that if the Warden liked what he had found he could get the whole day off instead of just an hour. X-Ray agreed that this was a very good plan and X-Ray told Stanley to move up one place in line of the water, ahead of Zero.

Chapter 14

The next day X-Ray went to Mr. Pendanski and showed him the gold tube. Mr. Pendanski went to inform the Warden about X-Ray’s find. The Warden was a tall woman with red hair. She gave X-Ray the day off and ordered Mr. Pendanski to fill the canteens for the boys again.

Chapter 15

The warden ordered Zero to dig X-Ray’s hole and Stanley to sift through the dirt that Zero dug. She put two boys on every hole, one to dig and the other to sift. All of the boys were promised a double shower and the day off if they would find anything. Stanley wonders how the Warden knew he was called Caveman, then Zigzag told him that the Warden had installed small hidden cameras and microphones in the whole camp. Stanley realized that the Warden wanted the boys to dig in order to find something. He made a mental note of the location of the hole where he found the gold tube in.

Chapter 16

The next day the Warden followed the boys to their holes. As Stanley sifted through dirt he tries to think of what the gold tube might have been. After digging the boys returned to the Wreck room where Mr. Pendanski gave Stanley a letter. After the boys left for dinner Stanley reads the letter from his mother. She told him that she is proud of him and that their landlord was threatening to evict them because his father’s experiments with shoes made the whole apartment smell awful. Stanley saw Zero behind him and he was surprised because he thought everyone had left. He told Zero what his mother had written.

Chapter 17

The next day the boys continued to dig in the spot that the Warden believed contained the gold tube, but nobody except Stanley and X-Ray knew that that was the wrong hole. The Warden got inpatient and told Mr. Pendanski that he was giving the boys too much water. As they continued to dig Zigzag knocked Stanley in the head with a shovel, cutting a gash near his ear. Mr. Sir made him a bandage out of a sack of sunflower seeds and told him to get back to work.

Chapter 18

Later, the boys began to dig in another section of the dried up lake. Stanley had become stronger now and finished his holes faster, even before many other boys did. He returns to the camp and wrote a letter to his mother in his tent so that the other boys wouldn’t see him. Again, Zero looked over his shoulder. Zero reveals that he didn’t know how to read or write and asked Stanley to teach him.

Chapter 19

One night Stanley heard Squid crying, so the next morning Stanley asked Squid if he was okay and Squid reacts angry. Stanley didn’t talk to the other boys very much because he was afraid of making them angry. One day after Mr. Sir fills their canteens, Magnet stole his bag full of sunflower seeds. When Magnet threw the bag to Stanley, all of the seeds dropped into Stanley’s hole and spill. Mr. Sir returned to the lake and catches Stanley with the bag of seeds. Now Stanley was again in the wrong place at the wrong time. Mr. Sir asked Stanley who stole them and Stanley took the blame instead of Magnet. Then Mr. Sir took Stanley to the Warden.

Chapter 20

Mr. Sir explained that someone stole the sunflower seeds, but he didn’t think it was Stanley. The Warden asked Stanley to bring a makeup case over to her. In the case there was a lipstick case and a bottle of red nail polish. The Warden explained that the nail polish had rattlesnake venom in it. The polish is harmless when dry but toxic while wet. Stanley was afraid, but the Warden then painted the nails on her hands and slapped Mr. Sir across the face. Her wet nail polish made him shout aloud because of the pain. The Warden told Stanley, “He’s not going to die…Unfortunately for you.”

Chapter 21

The boy went back to his hole and thought of how his great-grandfather had felt after being robbed by Kissin’ Kate Barlow and then stranded in the desert. By the time Stanley’s great-grandfather was rescued he was insane. He claimed that he had “found refuge on God’s thumb.” He married a nurse from the hospital after he recovered but he never knew what he meant by “God’s thumb”. When Stanley arrived to his hole he found that Zero had dug it for him.

Chapter 22

When he was back in the tent, Stanley thanked Zero for digging his hole. Then he asked why he helped him, and Zero said that Stanley didn’t steal the sunflower seeds and he also said “You didn’t steal the sneakers.” After this, Stanley offered to teach Zero to read and they made a deal in which Zero would dig Stanley’s hole for an hour every day so that Stanley wouldn’t be as tired when he taught Zero in the evening. He began to teach Zero the alphabet and discovered that Zero wasn’t as stupid as the other boys and Mr. Pendanski thought. At night Stanley worried what X-Ray would have said when Zero dug for Stanley. Then he thought of the gold tube he found and realized it is like something he had seen in the Warden’s bathroom; it was half a lipstick container. He wondered if the initials KB could stand for Kate Barlow.

Chapter 23

Now Green Lake is described as it was one hundred and ten years ago: a beautiful lake of clear water. Miss Katherine Barlow was the teacher of the one room schoolhouse of the town and she made wonderful spiced peaches that were preserved to last a year or longer. Charles Walker, who was also called Trout, came to classes that Miss Katherine taught. Trout did not come to learn, he was from the richest family in town and he wanted to marry Miss Katherine. One day he asked Miss Katherine to go on a ride with him in his new motorized boat. Trout is used to getting his own way so he is shocked and angry when Miss Katherine refuses to go with him.

Chapter 24

Mr Sir’s face was very swollen from the Warden’s rattlesnake venom and he jells at a boy who comments at his face. The next day Stanley didn’t get any water while digging the holes.

Chapter 25

We return to the time were Green Lake was still a lake. Sam, the onion man, sold onions and remedies from town. The name of his donkey is Mary Lou who pulls his cart of onions. He rowed across the lake with his boat to arrive to his secret onion field where the water runs uphill. He meant that onions are much better than medicine. The people of the town don’t, but if neither medicine helps hey ask Sam for help. One day Miss Katherine asks Sam to fix the hole in the schoolhouse roof. If he would help her she would give him some of her spiced peaches. So he did and the two became good friends. Sam couldn’t visit school because he was black. The two met more often because they liked their conversations and Miss Katherine continues to find things for Sam to fix in the schoolhouse. When there was nothing left to fix she told Sam her heart was broken and he kissed her. Someone of the town, Hattie Parker, saw them and pointed at them whispering -God will punish you-.

Chapter 26

Still hundred years ago, the news speeded that the two kissed. At this time it was against the law for black man to kiss a white woman. The angry town came to the schoolhouse to attack Miss Katherine and her books. She ran to the sheriff for help but he was drunk and preparing to hang Sam. Miss Katherine ran to Sam and both climb into his boat. Sam was rowing very hard but Trout Walker’s motorized boat was faster. Walker crashes into them and Sa was shot and killed. After that day, not one drop of rain has ever fallen on Green Lake. Three days after Sam’s death Katherine Barlow killed the Sheriff and then applied lipstick before kissing his dead face. Then Katherine Barlow spent twenty years as a dangerous outlaw in the West, known as Kissin’ Kate Barlow.

Chapter 27

Stanely had to pay attention to his water because Mr. Sir didn’t fill Stanley’s canteen anymore. When Zero spent an hour digging Stanley’s hole the other boys mocked Stanley for having a slave. X-Ray says, ” Same old story…the while boy sits while the black boy does all the work.” Stanley continued to teach Zero, who was a fast learner. One day Zero wrote his name and told Stanley that his real name was Hector Zeroni.

Chapter 28

Kate Barlow was an outlaw for over twenty years, then she returned to Green Lake. There were two oak trees near a cabin, where she lived. After three years there, Trout Walker and his wife, the redhead Lind Miller, tied Kate up while she was sleeping. Trout had lost all his money and asked Kate where she had hidden her outlaw loot. Trout and Linda made Kate walk barefoot across the hot sand until she dies from the bite of a yellow-spotted lizard. Kate never told them where the money was hidden.

Chapter 29

At the camp it was very hot as usually. One day Stanley saw dark clouds near the mountains in the west. He heard thunder and lightning but no rain. During a flash of lightning Stanley thought one of the mountains looked like a giant fist with a thumb sticking up. He thought of how his stranded great- grandfather said he had found refuge on God’s thumb.

Chapter 30

Stanley thought about God’s thumb and wonders if Kate Barlow lived in this area and if it was actually her gold lipstick tube that he found. When Mr. Pendanski brang their bag lunches the other boys taunted Stanley about having Zero dig Stanley’s hole for him. Zigzag pushes Stanley and they started fight. The Warden came and most of the boys told her that Zero had been digging some of Stanley’s hole. Stanley explained that he was teaching Zero to read. The Warden forbade Stanley to teach Zero to read and Mr. Pendanski taunted Zero about how stupid he was. Zero got angry and said that he would not dig any more holes. When Mr. Pendanski tells him that digging holes was all he would ever be good for, Zero smashed his shovel across Mr. Pendanski’s face and ran away. The Warden told the other counselors not to care about Zero because he would have to return for water. Then she said that the other six boys still had to dig seven holes, also without Zero.

Chapter 31

Also Stanley was angry with everyone including himself. He wanted to help Zero. He hoped Zero would travel to the mountain that looks like a thumb.

Chapter 32

After a few days Zero still didn’t come back and so his cot was given to another new boy called Brian. Stanley worried about Zero and so he decided to steal the water track of Mr. Sir. He didn’t know how to drive it but he races away in few seconds. Soon he drove into a hole. He got out and ran away.

Chapter 33

No one followed him as he ran away. While he ran he saw a lot of holes and at the inside of them many yellow-spotted lizards. He ran away from the lizards and later found one sunflower seed in a burlap bag.

Chapter 34

He walked towards the thumb mountain. Suddenly he saw something. It was a part of a boat named Mary Lou and under it he found Zero.

Chapter 35

Zero was very thirsty but he didn’t want to get back to the camp. He had still the shovel with him. He had found many jars of a muddy looking liquid that he called sploosh. Stanley didn’t want to drink it because he realized that it was probably at least 100 years old, but he was so thirsty that he did. It tasted like peaches. After Zero had a bad stomachache.

Chapter 36

Stanley and Zero wanted to go to God’s thumb. Stanley spelled word for Zero to keep him occupied, because his stomachache was terrible. They climbed up towards the thumb. At one point Zero used the shovel to help Stanley up part of a cliff. This caused Zero, who was already weak and sick, to get big cuts in his hands.

Chapter 37

The two continue to walk uphill but Zero threw up along the way.

Chapter 38

Stanley carried Zero up the mountain. The smell in the air is strange, it is bitter. On the top of the mountain there was mud on the ground. Stanley realized that mud meant there was water nearby and this renewed his strength. He dug an onion out of the mud and he and Zero both ate half of it.

Chapter 39

Stanley was in the middle of a giant meadow. Zero was still very sick but he told Stanley that once it was he, Zero, who stole Clyde Livingston’s shoes from the homeless shelter. He apologized to Stanley and Stanley sang Zero the song that Madame Zeroni taught his great-great- grandfather.

Chapter 40

We turn back to hundred and ten years ago when Sam was selling onions. A woman bought an onion that saved her daughter. Now Stanley and Zero spent two days up there eating onions.

Chapter 41

Zero told Stanley he was homeless. He often went to the homeless shelter that Clyde Livingston’s shoes were in. He took the shoes because he thought it was better to steal a pair of old shoes than to steal a pair of new shoes. He couldn’t read the sign on the shoe. Zero was wearing them when people discovered they were stolen. Everyone was so upset about the stolen shoes that Zero ran outside and put the shoes on top of a car. The next day Zero was arrested when he stole a new pair of shoes.

Chapter 42

The two made a hole for the water with a shovel. Stanley realized that he was happier than he has ever been before. He realized he was happy he got arrested because he had a new friend and liked himself as well. Stanley thought about secretly returning to the camp and digging up the treasure that may be in the hole where he once found the lipstick container.

Chapter 43

They plan to return to the camp and to dig up the treasure. While they waited Zero told Stanley more about him and his life. He remembered his mother singing him the same song that Stanley sang, only with different words. One day Zero’s mother left him in a park and told him to wait for her. He waited for a month, but she never returned. As they returned to Camp Green Lake, Zero steered them in the right direction after Stanley takes a wrong turn. They reached camp and hid near the hole that Stanley found the lipstick tube in.

Chapter 44

As it was dark Stanley dug in the hole and Zero sneaked into camp to get water and food. Stanley and Zero finally dug up a suitcase and just as they were preparing to leave a light shone in their faces and they found the Warden standing in front of them.

Chapter 45

The Warden shone a big flashlight on Zero, who was holding that suitcase, until she saw that there was a yellow-spotted lizard on the suitcase. Stanley realized he was standing in the lizard’s nest. The Warden, along with Mr. Pendanski and Mr. Sir, waited for the lizards to leave. The Warden talked about how once she grew up digging holes with her parents, looking for the suitcase.

Chapter 46

Stanley and Zero tried to don’t move because of the lizards. Mr. Sir told Stanley that Stanley’s lawyer had shown up the day before to say that Stanley was innocent of stealing the shoes.

Chapter 47

The lizards crawled away as the sun came out. Zero asked Stanley if his first name is his last name spelled backwards. Mr. Pendanski arrived with a woman and a man. The woman said she is Stanley’s lawyer. The Warden said that Stanley stole the suitcase that Zero was holding. The lizards scurried away and the Warden tried to take the suitcase from Zero but he says it belonged to Stanley. Zero showed everyone the other side of the suitcase where the name Stanley Yelnats was printed.

Chapter 48

Stanley’s lawyer’s name is Ms. Morengo and the man with her is the A. G., the Attorney General. Ms. Morengo told Stanley that he can leave freely. Stanley refused to leave without Hector. Ms. Morengo demanded to see Hector’s records but because Mr. Pendanski has erased them all, they couldn’t be found. Ms. Morengo took Hector and Stanley and they left.

Chapter 49

Now the narrator related how yellow-spotted lizards never appeared in Green Lake until after the lake dried up. One hundred and ten years ago people used to hunt rattlesnakes in the desert and they knew there were also lizards there. Sam gave rattlesnake hunters his onion juice to drink because lizards won’t bite people with onion blood. That’s because they didn’t bite Zero and Stanley. Back in the present day, Ms. Morengo showed Stanley and Zero the cure for foot odor that Stanley’s father has invented few days ago. It smells like peaches. Ms. Morengo told Stanley that the sneakers were stolen at 3:15 pm and that the boy of his school Derrick Dunne said that at 3:20 Stanley was still fishing his notebook from the toilet in the boy’s bathroom. This proved that Stanley didn’t steal the sneakers. Zero then said that he was the one to steal them. For the first time in over 100 years, it rained at Camp Green Lake.

Chapter 50

Stanley’s father invented his never working cure for foot odor the day after the great-great-grandson of Elya Yelnats carried the great-great-great-grandson of Madame Zeroni up the mountain. Camp Green Lake was closed. The camp would soon be a Girl Scout camp. The suitcase contained some jewels and many valuable deeds and stocks. Stanley and Hector each received almost a million dollars from these finds. Stanley bought his family a house and Hector hires a private investigator to find his mother again. The narrator says that although the reader is sure to have more questions, a scene at the Yelnat’s house will best explain Stanley and Hector’s situation. Stanley and Hector watched a commercial in which Clyde Livingston advertises sploosh, Stanley’s father’s cure for foot odor. Clyde Livingston was at Stanley’s house in person, watching the commercial as well. Hector sat with a woman who looked just like him. She sang him the same song that Madame Zeroni taught Elya Yelnats.

Louis Sachar

Louis Sachar was born on 20 March 1954 in East Meadow, New York. In 1976, he went to the University of California, where he studied economics. During university he started to write children’s books. After graduation he worked in a sweater warehouse in Connecticut and wrote at night. After he was fired from that job he moved on to law school. In his first week of study, Sideways Stories from Wayside was published. After completing his studies in 1980 he became a part-time lawyer but was compelled to concentrate on his writing full-time.

Now he lives in Austin, Texas, where he writes and plays quite a lot of bridge. His novel Holes has sold over 8 million copies worldwide and has been made into a movie of the same name by Disney. Louis is the recipient of many of the world’s most prestigious book prizes, including the National Book Award and the Newbery Award. Holes was also selected as the first Liverpool City Read title and won the Sheffield Book Award in the UK.

My opinion

I enjoyed reading this book very much and I would recommend it to all my friends, because it’s one of the books I really liked to read. This book tells a beautiful story about friendship and magic, which doesn’t start very great, but ends very nice and lucky. Also the movie is very famous and certainly beautiful.

© Athina Kostner



Athina Kostner reviews Holes by Louis Sachar




The black eye of the Month club

Junior was a fourteen-year-old Spokane Indian, who lived on the Reservation with his family and was born “with water on the brain”, so he had to have a surgery when he was six months old. Due to this problem, he had suffered from other health problems: he had had ten teeth more than normal, but they were pulled out; his eyesight was poor, so he had to wear glasses; he had seizures and also stutter and lips. For all these reasons, he was considered a retard and retards got beaten up, so Junior belonged to the Black-Eye-of-the-Month Club. The only way to be safe was to stay at home to read and draw cartoons. Drawing made him feel important, it was also the only way he could maybe become rich and escape the reservation.


Why chicken means so much to me

There was one thing that his cartoons couldn’t do: alleviate his family’s poverty. His family often missed a meal, but Junior always hoped that, sooner or later, his parents would come through the door with a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken. But hunger was not the worst thing of being poor, because the worst thing was not being able to help those he loved. His best friend Oscar, the family’s dog, got sick and for Junior he was better than any human he had known. To the question, if it was possible to carry him to the vet, his mum said, that they couldn’t afford to spend money. He wanted to hate his parents for this reason, but he also knew that he couldn’t blame them, because they had always been poor. He was sure, that if someone had paid attention to their dreams, his mum would have gone to college, while his father would have become a musician: but the reservation Indians didn’t allow them to make their dreams come true.

Junior had to say goodbye to Oscar, before his dad would shoot him, in fact a bullet only cost about two cents and everybody could afford that.


Revenge is my middle name

After Oscar had died, Junior wanted to crawl into a hole and disappear forever. Rowdy, his best human friend, talked him out. He spent most of his time with Junior, because his father was often drunk and punched him and his mother, but Rowdy never tried to hide his wounds. Also Junior’s parents were drunkards, but they were never mean and hit him. One night, there was a party called powwow and Rowdy wanted to go there. Junior not, he was afraid someone would pick him for being a retard, but at the end Rowdy convinced him to go. During the party, Rowdy bumped his face against a window and Junior began to laugh; for this reason Rowdy got mad and almost kicked him. Rowdy began to smash windows, dent doors and knock off mirrors: Junior, who was scared of his vandalism, ran away. But he ran into one of the cruelest triplets of the world and they punched him. When Rowdy found this out, he wanted to revenge on them and cut off their braids: this was the worst thing you could do to an Indian guy.

On the other side, Rowdy was not only good for revenge, but he loved comic books like Junior. Almost every day they met to read these comics and to make him laugh Junior drew many of them. They told each other everything, they were inseparable. 

Because Geometry is not a country somewhere near France

On the first day of high school, Junior was happy, but he was especially excited about his first geometry class. His sister was the opposite: after high school she didn’t go to college, she didn’t do anything. She wasn’t excited about life, like Junior. Even if she was beautiful, strong and funny, she spent her days alone in a basement.

The geometry teacher, Mr. P, was a ‘weird-looking dude’, who sometimes fell asleep during the lessons or even forgot to come to school. He passed out the books and on Junior’s book there was written: This book belonged to Agnes Adams, Junior’s mother. In that moment he realized, that the book was at least thirty years older than him and became horrified. Instinctively, he threw the book in Mr.P’s face.


After he had smashed Mr.P in the face, he was suspended and his family was very disappointed in him. During his suspension, Mr.P came to visit him. At first, he asked the reason for throwing a book on him, but then he started to talk about Mary Runs Away, Junior’s sister. He said that she wanted to be a writer, but then something happened to her and she just stopped writing. Mr.P wanted something better for Junior, in fact the only thing that the reservation children were being taught was how to give up. All the rez people had given up, because they didn’t have hope. Mr. P didn’t want him to give up, so he told him, he had to leave the reservation and then he would find hope.

Go means go

After Mr.P had left, Junior thought for a long time about his life and when his parents got back home from work, he told them he wanted to change school. His parents suggested some schools, but he wanted to go to Reardan, located in a rich and white town exactly twenty-miles away from the rez. This was one of the best small schools in the state. They agreed very quickly, because they had always wanted a better to leave the rez.

Rowdy sings the blues

The day after he had decided to transfer, he wanted to tell Rowdy his plans. He knew that his comrade would get mad, in fact at first Rowdy didn’t take him seriously. Junior wanted Rowdy to come with him, but the latter hated that town. The reservation school had always lost the baseball games against Reardan and this made Rowdy furious.

When Junior it made clear that he was not joking, Rowdy began to cry and blinded by rage, he punched him in the face. At this moment, Junior realized that his best friend had become his worst enemy.

How to fight monsters

On the first day, Junior’s dad drove him to school. He gave him some money and they greeted each other. When Junior arrived, nobody was there. After a while, the white kids finally came and they just stared at him. There was also another Indian in town: the Reardan’s mascot. Junior entered the school and made his way to the front office. Then he got assigned to Mr.Grant for homeroom. He sat down and a girl named Penelope asked him his name. The teacher called him with his ‘name name’: Arnold Spirit. Penelope became angry, because Junior had introduced himself as Junior and he hadn’t told her his full name. Most of the white boys ignored him, but the big jocks paid special attention to him, they called him names. One day, after Roger had told him a racist joke, Junior punched him in the face. Roger felt insulted and all his friends were shocked. In accordance with the Spokane Indian rules he had acted correctly.

Grandmother gives me some advice

That day, Junior went home completely confused. Since he had punched Roger in the face, he expected revenge, like every Indian would have done, if he had been punched. Roger, however, walked just away. Junior wished Rowdy would still be his friend, so he could have sent him after Roger. Because his parents weren’t at home, Junior went to his grandmother. He told her what had happened that school day and after a while of thinking, she said that he had earned his respect after he punched him. Junior thought, that this idea was crazy.

The next day, his father didn’t have enough gas, so he had to go to school on foot. Fortunately Eugene, dad’s best friend, was heading to Spokane, so he gave Junior a ride to school. He arrived at school and he saw Roger walking out of the front door. Junior was prepared to get a fight, but instead Roger talked to him with respect and he was nice. Junior thought that his grandma was right. After this, he felt better and walked into the school. He greeted Penelope, who at first ignored him and then made fun of him. At this point he realized that he might have impressed the king, but the queen still hated him.

Tears of a clown

Junior remembered that he had fallen in love with an Indian girl, named Dawn, when he was twelve. She was the best traditional powwow dancer on the reservation, but she ignored him and mostly made fun of him. He knew that he was one of those guys who fell in love with the unreachable. One night, when Rowdy slept in Junior’s house, Junior made a full confession. He told him about his feelings for Dawn and Rowdy responded him, that he was just stupid, because she would never return his love. These words made Junior cry. Rowdy told him to stop crying and promised him to tell nobody that he had cried for a girl.


On Halloween, Junior went to school dressed as a homeless dude; also Penelope went dressed as a homeless woman. She wore these ‘clothes’ to protest the treatment of homeless people in that country and she was going to ask spare change, that she would give all to the homeless. Because he wanted to impress her too, he told her that he was wearing these clothes to protest the treatment of homeless Native Americans and he added that he was also going to ask spare change instead of candies. They decided to pool the money and send it together. So that night, Junior went out trick-or-treating and plenty of people gave him spare change. But when he was walking home, three guys dressed as Frankenstein shoved him to the ground and stole the money from him. The day after, when he went to school, he told Penelope what had happened to him and she answered that she would still put both their names on the donation. After that moment, Junior hoped that they would become closer, but nothing changed. He understood that he had to change everything about himself, to make her fall in love with him.


Slouching toward thanksgiving

The white kids didn’t talk to him, he was always alone, but during that time in Reardan he had learned that he was smarter than most of those white kids. One day, when the geology teacher was talking about petrified wood, Junior dared to correct him.

The teacher couldn’t believe that an Indian could correct him and when the class genius, Gordy, confirmed that Junior was telling the truth, the teacher became dangerously angry.

One day, when he got home, Junior found his mother crying. Junior’s sister had married a flathead Indian, whom she had met at the casino and had moved to Montana. His parents were devastated, but Junior admired her courage, he was happy, that her spirit hadn’t been killed and that she was trying to live out her dream. Junior felt inspired by his sister, so the next day he approached Gordy and asked him to be his friend. And they became friends, but not like Rowdy and him. Gordy was one weird dude, but he was the smartest person Junior had ever known. Both were always lonely before they became friends. They studied together: Gordy did not only tutor and challenge him, but he made him realize that hard work was joyous.

My sister sends me an E-mail

Shortly for Thanksgiving, Junior received an email from his sister. She wrote that she had ridden a horse for the first time in her life and that she was looking for a job.

Mary wrote also that the people there were nice, Indians as well as whites. She spent her honeymoon together with her husband in a great hotel on Flathead Lake. Their suite was wonderful and on the room service menu, there was Indian fry bread. It was almost as good as grandma’s. She concluded with the sentence, that that honeymoon was a dream come true and that she loved her life, her husband and Montana.


It was a snowless Thanksgiving, although it was a feast. Junior’s mother made a lot to eat, like turkey, many vegetables and pumpkin pie. But he couldn’t understand why Indians and Pilgrims had celebrated the first Thanksgiving together and then, a few years later, the Pilgrims were shooting Indians. His father told him, Indians should be happy they didn’t kill them all. It was a good day, but Junior missed Rowdy. For the last ten years, Rowdy had always come over to his house. So he drew a cartoon of them like they used to be, walked over to Rowdy’s house and Rowdy’s father opened. The latter answered that Rowdy wasn’t at home, so he gave the cartoon to Rowdy’s father, who promised to give it to his son. Junior was going home, when he saw Rowdy through the window, who was holding his cartoon. He could see his sadness in his face. He realized, that Rowdy hadn’t torn up his cartoon .which meant that Rowdy still respected his cartoon. And so maybe he still respected him a little bit.

Hunger Pains

The lesson on the Civil War was so boring, so Junior went to the bathroom. From the other side of the wall he heard a weird noise. It was the girls’ bathroom and someone was throwing up there.

So he knocked on the door and the girl inside told him to go away. He walked away, but something pulled him back and so he waited. After a while, this girl came out: it was Penelope. She told him, that she was bulimic, but only when she was throwing up. Junior encouraged her, not to give up. At this point she started crying, she felt lonely, even if everybody thought she had a perfect life, just because she was beautiful. Over the next few weeks, they became friends with a potential. Nobody had ever thought Penelope would choose him as new friend, also her father, a racist, didn’t want them to be friends. Junior didn’t know what he really meant to her, but they enjoyed being together. Thanks to Penelope, he became popular: also other girls defined him cute, the other boys decided that he was a major student and even the teachers paid more attention to him. One day, Penelope told Junior, that she wanted to leave Readan, she wanted to become an architect, so she could build something and be remembered. They shared the same dream; both wanted to fly.

Rowdy gives me advice about love

Junior went to watch Penelope play volleyball. He was enchanted by her beauty and he wanted to know what do to with his feeling, so he went to the computer lab and wrote Rowdy an email, who had had the same address for five years. After a short time Rowdy wrote back, that he was sick of Indian guys who treated white women like bowling trophies and added Junior should get a life. Because this wasn’t what Junior hoped to hear, he decided to ask also Gordy’s opinion about that. Gordy answered, that he would go to make some research. He came back with an article and concluded that the attraction for Penelope meant he was racist as everybody else. In this way, Gordy was as tough as Rowdy.

Dance, dance, dance

Traveling between Reardan and the reservation made him feel like a stranger, because he was ‘half Indian in one place and half white in the other’. Nobody knew about Junior’s poverty in Reardan, but he knew it would be impossible to hide it forever. In December, he took Penelope to the Winter Formal. Because he had no money for gas, he told her to meet at the gym for dance. He put on his father polyester suit and Penelope liked him a lot. They had a great time dancing together and after that, Roger and some other dude invited him to go out for breakfast. Penelope was ecstatic about this idea, but Junior was worried because he had just five dollars. He ordered many things; he figured it was his last meal before his execution. Then he went to the bathroom, and after a short time, Roger went too. As an excuse, Junior told him, that he had forgotten his pocket with the money at home, so he gave him forty dollars. When they were about to go home, Penelope asked Junior if he was poor; he couldn’t lie to her anymore and so he told her the truth. She didn’t become mad and Roger, who was a little racist, but also a generous person, drove him home that night and many other nights, too. Junior concluded the day with the thought that if you let people into your life, they can be pretty damn amazing.

Don’t trust your computer

One day at school, Junior was missing Rowdy really much, so he went to the computer lab, took a photo of his face and sent it to him. Rowdy sent a photo of his bare behind. That made him laugh, but at the same time depressed. Also Gordy saw the picture and asked why Rowdy hated him.

Junior told him, that he hated him, because he had left the rez and he tried to imagine the three of them together: maybe Rowdy would beat Gordy up or they would become a superhero trio. Junior told him also, that many called him ‘apple’, because he was red on the outside and white on the inside. Gordy commented that ‘life is a constant struggle between being an individual and being a member of the community’. He added that weird people would still get banished, like he and Junior. They had now a tribe of two.

My sister sends me a letter

One day, Junior received a letter from his sister. She wrote she was still looking for a job, because they kept telling her she didn’t have enough experience. She had a lot of free time, so in the meantime she had started to write her life story and was going to call it: ‘How to run away from your house and find your home’. She wrote also, that she loved and missed everybody, and that she and her husband had moved into a new house.

Reindeer games

Junior’s dad encouraged him to try out the Reardan basketball team. There were forty boys, but only about sixteen would be cut. The first drill was a marathon and thirty-six of them finished. Immediately afterwards they had a second drill: one-on-one. Junior had to play against Roger, one of the best players. The Coach was very happy with his performance and so he could make the team. The first game was against Wellpinit, Junior’s old school. As he got off the bus, he could hear the crowd making fun of him and somebody in the crowd threw a sphere at him and so he was bleeding. Eugene stitched him up, so he could play in the third quarter. During the game, Rowdy smashed him with an elbow and knocked him unconscious. For this reason, they brought him to hospital. At night, the Coach visited him and told him that they had lost the match. He stayed with him awake all night, telling each other stories.


And a partridge in a pear tree

Junior’s family didn’t have money for presents, so his dad took the little money they did have and ran away to get drunk. He left on Christmas Eve and came back on January 2. After he came back home, he apologized for Christmas and Junior answered that it was okay, although it wasn’t. His dad told him, he should look in his boot and Junior found a five dollar note. He knew that dad must have really wanted to spend the last five dollars, but had saved them for Junior. It was a beautiful and ugly thing together and he kissed his father, who in the meantime had fallen asleep.

Red versus white

By staying in Reardan Junior had learned that there were plenty of white kids ignored by their parents and that people in Reardan tended to be strangers to each other; while on the rez everybody knew everybody. The best thing in Wellpinit, the rez, was his grandmother, who was also the most amazing person in the world, because she was tolerant. But one day, she was walking home from a mini powwow, when she was killed by a drunk driver. She died during the emergency surgery, but before dying she told the surgeons to forgive the murderer. The latter was taken to jail and after he got out, he moved and nobody ever saw him again. Junior’s grandma had never tasted alcohol, because she wanted to touch the world with all of her senses intact. 


They held Grandma’s wake three days later and almost two thousand Indians came to say good-bye. Junior was happy, that they let him grieve in peace, even if he had left the rez school. The ceremony took place on the football field and Mary couldn’t attend. About ten hours into the wake, a white guy stepped forward holding a big suitcase. He said, he loved the Indian people and that he collected Indian Art. In his suitcase, he had a beautiful powwow dance outfit. An Indian had sold this to him and had employed an anthropologist to determine the owner and after some researches, he said that it once belonged to Grandmother Spirit. She loved to go to powwow, but she never danced so she never owned a dance outfit. Consequently he packed the outfit back into the suitcase, hurried over to his car and sped away. Two thousand Indians laughed at the same time.

Valentine heart

A few days after Valentine’s Day, Eugene was shot by one of his good friends, Bobby. They were fighting for the last drink in a bottle of wine. A few weeks later, Bobby hung himself in jail. To get over the pain, Junior’s father went drinking, while his mother went to church every day. In a short time, they had lost their grandmother and Eugene. Junior wanted to find out everything about the word ‘grief’ and Gordy showed him a book written by Euripides, who knew the answer. In one of his plays, Medea said: ‘What greater grief than the loss of one’s native land?’ At this point, Junior realized that this had happend to the Indians, they had lost everything.

Then, after his fifteenth or twentieth missed school, he returned to Reardan. The social studies teacher mocked him for all the absences. Junior was too broken to stand up to her, but it was Gordy who defended him. He stood up to the teacher and inspired the others. As a consequence the classmates stood up one by one and walked out of the room. Before this event, Junior used to think that the world was divided by race, skin color or culture, but now he thought it was only divided into two groups: the people who are assholes and those who are not. This gave him a little bit of joy, so he made a list of the people, musicians, foods, books and basketball players who had given him the most joy in his life.

In like a lion

Junior had never guessed he would become a good basketball player, but he became one of the best players on the basketball team. He guessed it came down to the power of expectations. After they lost the first game to Wellpinit, they won twelve in a row. Then they had the rematch with Wellpinit, but this time at home. Wellpinit was the number one-ranked small school in the state, just because of Rowdy. Before the match, Junior got interviewed by the local news. The coach wanted him to guard Rowdy, although Junior thought he couldn’t do it. A few minutes after start, Junior could steal Rowdy the ball when he was about to dunk. Junior took the ball, raced across the court and scored; at the end Reardan beat them by forty points. Junior was the hero, but he was ashamed, because the Indians had nothing, while the Reardan boys had everything. He cried also because he had hurt his best friend’s heart. Wellpinit never recovered from their loss to Reardan, while Junior’s team headed into the playoffs, but there, they got beaten. It was a big upset and everybody cried. 

Rowdy and I have long and serious discussion about basketball

A few days after the basketball season had ended, Junior e-mailed Rowdy to apologize for the win. He answered back with a rebellious and insulting sentence, as always. Nevertheless Junior was happy, because it was the first time that Rowdy had talked to him since he had left the reservation and although the answer was rude, Rowdy was also a bit friendly.

Because Russian guys are not always geniuses

For Junior, the biggest difference between Indian and white people, was the amount of funerals, which you attended. Junior’s white friends could count their deaths on a hand, while he had been to 42 funerals: ninety percent of them were due to alcohol. One day, during chemistry, the guidance consulter wanted to speak in private with Junior. She told him, that his father was coming to pick him up, because his sister Mary was dead. On the way back, Junior’s father told him the reason: she and her husband had had a big party in their home in Montana and they had forgotten a soup on a hot plate. A near curtain caught the hot plate and the trailer burned down quickly. Junior’s mother was broken and she didn’t want Junior to leave her. Two days later, they buried her. During the burial, he had to get out of there and ran out of the graveyard into the woods, where he bumped into Rowdy, who was crying. Rowdy blamed Junior for her death: because he had left the rez, she did it too. Junior went back to school, where boys, girls and teachers worried for him. He was important to them. Penelope came up to him last and she was weeping. Junior felt like every planet in his solar system had exploded.


Junior went with his parents to the cemetery and cleaned up the graves of Grandmother Spirit, Eugene, and Mary. They had a picnic and Junior’s dad played also his saxophone. His mum told him, that she was proud of him and this made Junior happy, but he missed his sister. He admired her for the courage to leave the basement. Thinking that more Spokane would die during the next year, because of booze, made him sad. He knew that he was never going to drink and that he was going to have a better life out in the white world. Junior was okay, but it also reminded him of the people who were not okay, like Rowdy. He missed him.

Talking about turtles

The school year was over and Junior enjoyed the time on the reservation, which was beautiful. The rez was surrounded by pine trees everywhere. These reminded him of Rowdy: when they were nine or ten and they decided to climb the tallest tree over by Turtle Lake. On that day, they weren’t afraid of falling. Actually, they wanted to go swimming in Turtle Lake, but since Junior was afraid and the lake was deep, they decided to climb it. Thinking about it, he couldn’t believe that they did it and he couldn’t either believe that he had survived the first year at Reardan. He missed his white friends: he wrote Penelope a couple of letters, Gordy wanted to come to the reservation and Roger had willed his basketball uniform for him. Then, one afternoon, Rowdy came to Junior’s house, with the excuse he was bored. So they decided to go to the court and play basketball. Again, Junior asked Rowdy to go with him to Reardan, but he declined. Instead he was happy for him, because he was going to follow his dreams. Junior cried a little by the thought, how much he would miss his family, his friends, the tribe and his reservation. Then, they continued to play and they didn’t keep score.


(c) Chiara Videsott

Chiara Videsott: “The absolutely true diary of a part-time Indian” by Sherman Alexie