If you were an overweight, unliked student, and a pair of shoes fell on you when you were walking home from school, how would you feel when you were later accused of stealing them from a homeless shelter? Things would be even worse if you were sent to a work camp for boys and required to dig one very deep hole in the desert every day. That is exactly the situation Stanley finds himself in as this book begins.
I've read hundreds of books. Thousands, really. And this is one of my all-time favorites. I've used it as a read-aloud for many fifth grade classes, and I have yet to find a student who didn't love it. Even students who read it before delighted in hearing it / reading it again, and they didn't give away the spoilers because the way it unfolds in the book is unique and so perfectly executed that it would be wrong to find out any other way.
All readers can relate to the way different characters respond to injustice in this story, and the complex connections challenge readers to think about the roles they play in the lives of other people. Although the movie version does a reasonably good job being faithful to the story, the book is infinitely richer, and worthwhile. The story line jumps between time periods, settings, and characters, so some readers might not be inclined to stick with the adventure independently. The book weaves some mature topics through the story, including violence and racism, as well as ethics, luck, and determination. This book is simply outstanding.
"Stanley was not a bad kid. He was innocent of the crime for which he was convicted. He'd just been in the wrong place at the wrong time."
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