by Louis Sachar, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1998
1999 Nancy Polette

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Stanley Yelnat's family has a history of bad luck, so he isn't too surprised when a miscarriage of justice sends him to a boy's juvenile detention center., Camp Green Lake. There is no lake, it has been dry for over a hundred years, and it's hardly a camp: as punishment, the boys must each dig a hole a day, five feet deep, five feet across, in the hard earth of the dried-up lake bed. The warden claims that this pointless behavior builds character, but that's a lie. Stanley must try to dig up the truth.
Activity One
The camp is located in a barren region of Texas, one hundred miles from the nearest water source. Water is brought in by truck. Explain why the camp has no fences or guards. Is there a way the boys might escape? Describe the desert in a five senses poem: Color, tastes sights, sounds, smells, feelings.
Activity Two
The boys in the camp have nicknames: X-Ray, Armpit, Zero, Caveman, Squid, Magnet and Zig-Zag. Make a list of one of the following:
a) the parts of a car
b) parts of a television
c) pieces of clothing.
Describe one of the boys by using the parts you chose.
Example: Caveman tries to steer an even course, with engine idling most of the time. His hood of protection is the window he refuses to open. He fears the consequences should he touch the accelerator of road rage.
Activity Three
List as many fictional and real evil women as you can. Choose five you feel are the most evil. Read the incident with the warden on pp 89-91. Add her to your list and rank order from the most to the least evil.
Activity Four
The desert setting has its dangers: scorpions, rattlesnakes and worst of all, the yellow-spotted lizard. As Stanley says, "You don't want to be bitten by a yellow-spotted lizard.That's the worst thing that can happen to you. You will die a slow and painful death." Read pp 205-206 where Stanley and Zero who have tried to escape are caught in a hole with dozens of yellow spotted lizards. Predict how the author will get them out of this fix.
Activity Five
All of these feelings are experienced by the characters: loneliness, injustice, anger, fear, compassion, courage
Choose one and answer these questions as if the feeling were a person:
1. I am________
2. I dress in_______
3. I need ________
4. I am related to_____
5. I vacation____
6. My job is____
7. I desire_______
Use your answers in a poem.
See the example: Stanley's Lament

I am loneliness
The dark of night is my cloak
I vacation in the arms of solitude
Sadness and depression are the cousins I would joyfully disinherit
At a welcoming smile.

Recommended Resources:
TSMP.org - the Texas School Music Project provides free tips and music lessons!
GolfSW.com offers junior golf tips and reviews of golf courses in Texas and the southwest.