This book has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine.
Wrongly accused of stealing sneakers, Stanley Yelnats is sentenced to 18 months at Camp Green Lake correctional facility. The boys there dig holes daily in the hot sun, supposedly to “build character” — but Stanley soon discovers the warden is actually hunting for a treasure tied to Stanley’s ancestors. As he masters his digging skills and rescues a fellow inmate, Stanley’s self-confidence grows. He also discovers the treasure may be closer than anyone realizes. Flashback tales about Stanley’s family history are woven through his Camp Green Lake experiences.
Characters in Stanley’s flashbacks attribute physical healing to God and suggest that a tragic event was “God’s punishment.”
Stanley and his dad halfway believe in a family curse supposedly placed on Stanley’s great, great grandfather.
The warden and counselors at Camp Green Lake call the boys stupid, withhold water from them as they work in the hot sun, and sometimes even hurt them enough to draw blood. In one scene, these adults are prepared to shoot Stanley and his friend, Zero, in order to acquire the treasure. X-Ray, one of the young inmates, is leader of the boys in Stanley’s unit; he makes decisions including what order the boys stand in to get water each day. Stanley’s parents, though they show up mainly in Stanley’s memory, are kind and supportive. He lies to them in his letters so they won’t worry about him.
Counselors say, “What the h—?” and take God’s name in vain once. A fair amount of violence occurs as the warden hurts the counselors and inmates, the counselors point guns at the kids, and the kids fight each other. None of the violence is terribly descriptive.
In a flashback to the time of Stanley’s great grandfather, a white schoolteacher kisses a black peddler she loves. The town lynches him.
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