The laziness of his no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather has placed a mighty unpleasant curse on the Yelnats family. Stanley Yelnats (a great name whichever way you read it) is always in the wrong place at the wrong time, and this particular time, it leads him to a stay at Camp Green Lake.
In reality, Camp Green Lake is a juvenile detention facility, with neither greenery nor a lake, run by a tough warden whose fingernails drip rattlesnake venom when she's upset.
Like all the other inmates, Stanley has to dig himself a hole every day, starting before sunrise, and ending when a perfect five foot diameter by five foot deep hole has been dug. Water breaks are scarce, and one always has to be on the lookout for rattlers, killer lizards, and any strange artifacts that the warden may be interested in.
Skillfully switching from past to present, Louis Sachar fills in the background and ties it into the present, so we quickly learn than the warden is up to something, and that the character-building holes may not be what they profess to be.
Winning the friendship of the resilient little Zero through the exchange of talents, Stanley makes an unplanned escape, and while solving the mystery, accidentally discovers that certain diets can be extremely important to survival.
A short, well written, easy to follow novel, which can be read in one sitting. Great for a young or older reader with an appreciation for unwashed bodies, cheesy toes, concentration camps and wicked wardens.