Moviegoers, readers dig 'Holes'

If you're under 18, chances are Caveman, X-Ray, and Zero have been familiar names for years.

Long before there was "Holes" the movie, there was "Holes" the book, and readers had fallen in love with Louis Sachar's interwoven tales of exploited kids, poisonous lizards, interracial love, smelly feet, and, of course, Stanley Yelnats's no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather. "Every little piece fits together," says Frances Foster, Sachar's editor. "There's enormous satisfaction in reading that kind of story."

And in watching it, apparently. The movie has earned a solid $45 million in three weeks. Even more remarkable, last week the five-year-old National Book Award winner topped the USA Today bestseller list - not, mind you, a list limited to children's books.

That "Holes" is flying off bookstore shelves now is a relief to Sachar, who admits he was initially wary that a movie might make the written version less appealing. "I'm constantly hearing from kids, their parents, and teachers about how reluctant readers want to read the book," he says. "I didn't want to lose that."

Avid fans will notice some changes in the translation to the screen - most notably that the hero has dropped a few pounds. But from an industry famous for making mincemeat of the written word, "Holes" the movie ended up retaining much of the book's spirit, humor, and time-warp puzzle of a plot. And unlike many Hollywoodized authors, Sachar - who also wrote the screenplay - couldn't be happier with the result.

He even makes a brief appearance as an extra - buying an onion-based cure for hair loss - and he got an unexpected line. "That was a lot of fun," he laughs.

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