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Small Steps Hardcover – January 10, 2006


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 690L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers (January 10, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385733143
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385733144
  • Product Dimensions: 0.9 x 5.7 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (187 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,242,158 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 5-8–This sequel to Holes (Farrar, 1998) focuses on Armpit, an African-American former resident of Tent D at Camp Green Lake. It's two years after his release, and the 16-year-old is still digging holes, although now getting paid for it, working for a landscaper in his hometown of Austin, TX. He's trying to turn his life around, knowing that everyone expects the worst of him and that he must take small steps to keep moving forward. When X-Ray, his friend and fellow former detainee at the juvenile detention center, comes up with a get-rich-quick scheme involving scalping tickets to a concert by teenage pop star Kaira DeLeon, Armpit fronts X-Ray the money. He takes his best friend and neighbor, Ginny, a 10-year-old with cerebral palsy, to the concert and ends up meeting Kaira, getting romantically involved, and finally becoming a hero by saving her life when her stepfather tries to kill her and frame him. Small Steps has a completely different tone than Holes. It lacks the bizarre landscape, the magical realism, the tall-tale quality, and the heavy irony. Yet, there is still much humor, social commentary, and a great deal of poignancy. Armpit's relationship with Ginny, the first person to care for him, look up to him, and give his life meaning, is a compassionate one. Like Holes, Small Steps is a story of redemption, of the triumph of the human spirit, of self-sacrifice, and of doing the right thing. Sachar is a master storyteller who creates memorable characters.–Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Gr. 5-8. In rougher days, Armpit, named for an ill-placed scorpion bite, bullied a new member of his work-camp team. That kid was Stanley Yelnats, whose travails in Holes earned Sachar a 1998 Newbery Medal and National Book Award. Though Armpit is now 17, the tone of his experiences remains squarely middle-grade, and like Stanley, he proves an appealing, hapless character buffeted by others' schemes and shouldering the burdens of personal history--in this case, the bruisingly real challenges facing an African American teenager with a criminal history. Armpit takes his counselor's suggestions seriously ("Just take small steps and keep moving forward"), but he nonetheless becomes entangled in returning character X-Ray's concert ticket-scalping enterprise, resulting in a serendipitous meeting with a bubble-gum pop star and an awkward role in a police investigation. This is both less experimental and less streamlined than Holes;Armpit's bond with a girl with cerebral palsy, for instance, often seems too clearly intended to reveal his soft heart. Even so, Holes fans will be thrilled by the tightening of the plot elements to a single, suspenseful point, and they will eagerly follow the sometimes stumbling, sometimes sprinting progress of Sachar's fallible yet heroic protagonist. To learn more about the author's decision to mine Holes for new inspiration, see the adjacent "Story behind the Story" feature. Jennifer Mattson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

More About the Author

author spotlight
Newbery Award-winning author Louis Sachar is the creator of the entertaining Marvin Redpost books as well as the much-loved There's a Boy in the Girls' Bathroom, winner of 17 child-voted state awards.

Louis Sachar's book Holes, winner of the 1999 Newbery Medal, the National Book Award, and the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, is also an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, an ALA Quick Pick, an ALA Notable Book, and was made into a major motion picture.

A Few Words From Louis Sachar
Of all the characters from Holes, why did you choose to revisit Armpit in SMALL STEPS?
LS: I tend to write about underdogs. It seemed to me that life would be tough for an African-American teenager from a low-income family with a criminal record. Especially someone stuck with the name, "Armpit."
Although this new book is about a character from Holes, the two books are very different. How would you explain to a fan of Holes what to expect from SMALL STEPS?
LS: I can't. I'm no good at describing my books. Holes has been out now for seven years, and I still can't come up with a good answer when asked what that book is about.
Could you imagine future novels about any of the other boys?
Do you think about what Stanley is up to now?
LS: I don't think too much about Stanley or Zero. I left them in a good place. Although money doesn't bring happiness, or give meaning to someone's life, the problems Stanley and Zero face now (and I'm sure they do face many problems) are less interesting than those faced by someone like Armpit.
Plenty of teenagers fantasize about what it would be like to be a young rock star.
You portray it as lonely. Tell us about that decision.
LS: The media tends to portray the teenage world as one where drinking and sex is taken for granted. In fact, I think most teenagers don't drink, are unsure of themselves, and feel awkward around members of the opposite sex. I thought it was important to show Kaira, a rock star no less, as such a person. Her situation, in many ways, is made more difficult as she has no social contact with anyone her age. She is trapped in a world of agents, record producers, and hanger-ons.
I'm imagining that off all the books you've written, Holes is the one that has changed your life the most. Not only did it win the Newbery Medal, it's also simply a popular sensation. Is this assessment accurate? What is this novel's continuing impact on your life? Would you consider it the book that you are proudest of?
LS: Not counting Small Steps, I think Holes is my best book, in terms of plot, and setting, and the way the story revealed itself. It hasn't changed my life, other than that I have more money than I did before I wrote it. I'm still too close to Small Steps to compare it to Holes.
Why do you typically write only two hours each day?
LS: Small steps. Every time I start a new novel it seems like an impossible undertaking. If I tried to do too much too quickly, I would get lost and feel overwhelmed. I have to go slow, and give things a chance to take form and grow.

Customer Reviews

Louis Sachar great job!!!!!!!!
Mr. Potato Head
This is a really good book that's very different from the author's bestseller Holes, even though it has characters from Holes.
Jason Salsbury
It is definitely one of those books you can read again and again and it's still good.
Margaret

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Blake Petit VINE VOICE on March 15, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This book, the follow-up to Sachar's blockbuster Holes, is a major departure from the first novel. It's not exactly a sequel, but rather a new story about two of the minor characters from the earlier book. (Folks holping to find out what happened to Stanley or Zero will be disappointed -- they're not even mentioned in this book, except for Armpit referencing that "Sploosh" was invented by the father of someone he was at Camp Green Lake with). Set two years after the earlier novel, Armpit is now trying to graduate from High School, working and staying on the straight and narrow. Until his old buddy X-Ray shows up with a way to make him some real money... just some old-fashioned ticket scalping.

Like I said, this is VERY different from Holes. That book was part mystery, part generational novel, even part western. This is more of a straightforward story -- no mystery, a hint of crime drama. While Holes dealt with some heavy issues, such as race relations and juvenile detention, this book goes even further, dealing with drug issues, cerebral palsy and even (briefly) sex. None of this is intended as a criticism, but it is important that parents getting this book for their children realize how much more mature this book is than the earlier novel.

That said, this is a really strong book. Armpit and X-Ray were mostly placeholder characters in the first book. Here they're fleshed out very well and joined by other strong characters. You find out why they were in jail in the first place (and unlike Stanley in the first book, they were not falsely accused), and you see that good people can do stupid things sometimes. The ending is more bittersweet than Holes as well, but it leaves you with a real sense of hope at the same time.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on February 26, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Reader's Workshop Paragraph-Michael Brailovsky

Small Steps by Louis Sachar, author of Holes is a book about a boy named Armpit. Armpit was one of the campers from Camp Green Lake, the camp in which Stanley Yelnats, from Holes went for stealing a pair of shoes. Armpit, the main character in this book was one of Stanley's roommates at the camp, and is now back at home and working for a landscaping company.

One day, his friend X-Ray from Camp Green Lake, drives up to him and asks him if he would like to make some money by buying tickets to a concert for sixty dollars and then trying to sell them for almost three times as much. Armpit agrees, but already regrets his choice, when he had almost made one thousand dollars in two months. Armpit accidentally meets Kaira DeLeon, the singer to whose concert they purchased tickets to, and falls in love with her. As they spend time together, Armpit makes the wrong choices over and over again.

I think this is a great leisure book for teens ages 12- 15 because the book is about subjects that teens are interested in and have no trouble understanding. The story is very attractive because there is always something exciting going on and every chapter that you finish, leaves on a cliffhanger. I would compare this book to Holes by Louis Sachar because in the way that it is written in, it describes every element of the story very well. Go read it!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By KidsReads on February 1, 2006
Format: Hardcover
It's no exaggeration to say that SMALL STEPS is one of the most eagerly awaited sequels in recent memory. It's taken Louis Sachar eight years to follow up his Newbery Award-winning novel HOLES, which was also made into a popular feature film. To call SMALL STEPS a sequel, though, is not entirely true; instead, the book is more of a companion to Sachar's earlier novel, following some of the same characters but written in a fundamentally different style.

Theodore "Armpit" Johnson is back in the real world after finally being released from Camp Green Lake, the horrific juvenile detention center that was the setting for HOLES. Living in Austin, Texas, Armpit is determined to finish school while using his shoveling skills in a good job for a landscaping firm. He's learning a lot, saving some money, and taking small steps toward becoming a respected member of society again.

Armpit's life is going pretty smoothly until X-Ray, another former Green Lake detainee, comes on the scene with a get-rich-quick scheme. Pop singer Kaira DeLeon is coming to town, and her show is sure to sell out. X-Ray's plan is to buy twelve tickets and resell them to the highest bidders. He needs Armpit's help (and his bank account) to buy the tickets, and he promises to share the wealth with Armpit.

Not surprisingly, the plan backfires on all cylinders, as Armpit learns lessons about economics, ethics and the law. About the only good thing that comes out of the plan is that Armpit and his young neighbor Ginny (who has cerebral palsy) actually get to meet Kaira DeLeon. Armpit and Kaira have instant chemistry --- Armpit is attracted to Kaira's beauty and intelligence, and Kaira is pleasantly surprised that Armpit likes her for herself.
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36 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Kevin J. Loria VINE VOICE on January 11, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Louis Sachar the award-winning author of over twenty fiction and educational books for children including the Marvin Redpost and Wayside School series. Holes, won the prestigious National Book Award, the Newbery Medal, sold 6 million copies, and was successfully translated to film. Now we finally learn what life is like AFTER CAMP GREEN LAKE. "Small Steps" is a follow-up to Holes, it features ARMPIT aka Theodore Johnson, still digging holes, but now as a landscaper, trying to finish up high school. Armpit's new life is turned upside when X-Ray shows up with a ticket scalping scheme involving teen pop star, Kaira DeLeon. Armpit, who has been trying to take his own "small steps" to the straight and narrow, finds himself once again running afoul of the law.

Eight years after Sachar's breakout hit with Holes, he needs to take big steps to fill "sweet-feet's" proverbal shoes. Does Sachar manage it? Yes, mostly, "Small Steps" is a good book, but not a great one. Sachar's voice is just as clear, and the situations are more realistic. He is most successful with relationships, like Armpit and Ginny a 10-year-old girl with cerebral palsy whose family lives on the other side of his family's East Austin duplex. The publisher should have resisted the temptation to call "Small Steps" a "companion to Holes" to reduce heavy expectations... especially since the obvious follow-up would be the story of Stanley, Zero and their newfound millions, instead of focusing on one of Camp Green Lake's less appealing characters.

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