Louis Sachar – American author, b. 1954
Louis Sachars first novel, Sideways Stories from Wayside School, was published in 1979. He was inspired to write classroom stories while working as a teacher s aide to earn college credits after dropping a Russian class. The book contains thirty stories about a thirty-story school. It is full of intelligent, offbeat humor and kids who are familiar and yet a bit unreal. The book was accepted for publication the same week Sachar began law school. For the next six years Louis Sachar wrote children’s books while studying and later practicing law, until his books finally earned enough money for him to give up his law career,
Louis Sachar has since written two more novels about the Wayside School, Wayside School Is Falling Down (1989) and Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger (1995), as well as Sideways Arithmetic from the Way side School (1989) and More Sideways Arithmetic from the Wayside School (1994)> in which Sachar’s characters present his own unusual brand of mathematical puzzles. At Wayside School, Elf plus Elf equals Fool, and Moth plus Took equals Hmmmm. Challenging and comical, the problems are perfectly matched with the witty surrealist tone of the Wayside School stories.
Many of Sachar’s books have been popular among children and critics alike, including the touching and humorous There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom (1987), his Marvin Redpost series of early chapter books, and one of his finest books, Someday Angeline (1983), about an exceptional eight-year-old who is alienated because of her intelligence. While Angeline’s father, a trash collector, wants great things for her, all Angeline really wants is to go for a ride in his garbage truck. Angeline is an endearing character who values humor and friendship, and who is “in balance with the whole.”
Not until 1998 did Sachar truly show the world the extent of his talent with the publication of the ambitious novel Holes, which won both the Newbery Medal and the National Book Award. The book was inspired by summer in Texas. After spending most of his life in temperate northern California, Sachar moved to Texas with his wife and daughter in 1991 and found the intense heat and long summers nearly unbearable.
He sentenced the hero of Holes, Stanley Yelnats, to a stay at Camp Greenlake, a sort of desert prison for boys, after Stanley has been wrongly accused of stealing a pair of shoes. The boys at Camp Greenlake dig holes all day long under the hot desert sun. Unknowingly, they are digging for Kissing Kate Barlow’s treasure, under the command of the wicked warden, a descendant of one of Kate’s enemies.
Woven into Stanley’s tale is that of Kissing Kate and the town of Greenlake before it became a desert, as well as that of Stanley s own cursed ancestors. Every detail of the past plays into the events of the present, creating a flawless and entertaining puzzle that is solved marvelously at the end. More than any of Sachar’s other books, Holes has a surreal quality to it. Every character is larger than life and yet grounded, human, and believable. Every turn of events is fantastic and yet inevitable.
Humor, quirky characters, a great sense of fun, and a true affection for young people and their idiosyncrasies mark Louis Sachar’s work.
Source: Children’s Books and their Creators, Anita Silvey.
Louis Sachar Works
- Sideways Stories from Wayside School (1978)
- Wayside School is Falling Down (1989)
- Sideways Arithmetic From Wayside School (1989)
- More Sideways Arithmetic From Wayside School (1994)
- Wayside School Gets A Little Stranger (1995)
- Wayside School Beneath the Cloud of Doom (2020)
- Kidnapped at Birth? (1992)
- Why Pick on Me? (1993)
- Is He a Girl? (1993)
- Alone In His Teacher’s House (1994)
- Class President (1999)
- A Flying Birthday Cake? (1999)
- Super Fast Out of Control! (2000)
- A Magic Crystal? (2000)
- Holes (1998) — winner of the National Book Award and Newbery Medal
- Stanley Yelnats’ Survival Guide to Camp Green Lake (2003)
- Small Steps (2006)
- Johnny’s in the Basement (1981)
- Someday Angeline (1983)
- Sixth Grade Secrets (1987) (known as Pig City in the UK)
- There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom (1987)
- The Boy Who Lost His Face (1989)
- Dogs Don’t Tell Jokes (1991)
- The Cardturner (2010)
- Fuzzy Mud (2015)