20 Must-Read Books Like Holes (Children’s Mystery)

Holes by Louis Sachar is a classic, award-winning children’s book that tackles themes of racism, friendship, and family history and is beloved by readers. Following several storylines Sachar weaves stories from different time periods together for a stunning and captivating book. 

20 Must-Read Books Like Holes (Children's Mystery)

The novel begins with the story of Elya Yelnats, who seeks the advice of a fortune teller to win the heart of his beloved, Myra.  When Madame Zeroni advises him to follow specific instructions to fatten up a pig that will win over Myra’s father, he misses an important instruction, resulting in life-long bad luck. When he immigrates to the United States, his ill fortune follows him as he begins his new life.

Fast forward to 1888, when Katherine Barlow falls in love with African American onion farmer Sam in Green Lake, Texas. When their relationship is discovered by Charles Walker, who has his eye on Katherine, the two befall a terrible fate when Walker kills Sam. Afterwards, rains stop for decades over Green Lake, leaving the desert barren and dry.  Kate later kills the sheriff of the town and steals a suitcase from Elya Yelnats’s son, Stanley, sealing her reputation as an outlaw.

Stanley Yelnats is wrongly convicted of stealing a pair of athletic shoes and is sent to Camp Greenwood, a juvenile correctional boot camp where the teens are required to dig five by five foot holes every day.  Stanley’s friend Zero flees the camp; when Stanley reconnects with him in the desert, the two survive on a nearby mountain, only to return to find artifacts from Katherine Barlow and Stanley Yelnats, which had been buried decades earlier. As the two are released from the correctional facility, rains finally fall on Camp Green Lake.

Holes is a richly layered novel that presents fascinating stories throughout history that eventually connect. If you’re searching for similar books, be sure to check out Stanley Yelnats Survival Guide to Camp Green Lake for even more on the characters in Holes.  

Still looking for other titles? We’ve got you covered! Below, we’ve compiled the 20 best titles that are perfect companion reads to Holes, serving up stories with elements of historical fiction, strong characters, and themes of adventure, discovery, and friendship. 

20 Must Read Books Like Holes

Small Steps by Louis Sachar

Small Steps (Holes Series)

Once you’ve devoured Holes, be sure to dive into Small Steps, by Louis Sachar. Sachar offers up a follow-up on two of Stanley’s fellow campers a couple of years after Holes

Despite trying to stay on track after his stint in Green Lake, Armpit, who bullied Stanley Yelnats, is swept up in fellow camper X-Ray’s idea of making money by scalping tickets. A heart-warming and humorous novel, Small Steps will satisfy any fan of Holes who is left wanting more. 

Buy a copy of the book here. 

Lions and Liars by Kate Beasley

Lions & Liars

For a hilarious novel about mistaken identity, pick up Kate Beasley’s novel, Lions and Liars. When Frederick Frederickson is sent to a disciplinary camp, he’s mistaken for a bully. As other campers give him both props and scared looks for being an edgy bully, he falls in with some unlikely friends. When a hurricane heads towards the camp, they must band together. 

With illustrations by Dan Santat bursting with humor, this book serves up strong messages about friendship and fitting in. A perfect read-alike for fans of Holes

Buy a copy of the book here. 

Scar Island by Dan Gemeinhart

Scar Island

When Jonathan Grimsby arrives at Slabhenge Reformatory School for Troubled Boys, he’s ready to pay for the awful thing he has done. Moments after arriving at the school, which is a crumbling, old building that rises from the ocean, a strike of lightning leaves the grown-ups dead. 

As the boys form alliances and friendships, power, greed, and a quickly approaching storm threaten to destroy the school. A gripping and fast-paced novel, Gemeinhart hooks readers and never lets them go during this fascinating story.

Find your copy here. 

Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar

Fuzzy Mud

When friends Tamaya and Marshall take a different route home one day to avoid bullying Chad. When they enter the forbidden woods and discover mud that seems to be fuzzy, they fear they’ve stumbled onto a scientific disaster. Soon, the two are involved in a situation they could’ve never predicted.

A science fiction thriller with strokes of adventure, discovery, and friendship Sachar’s novel is a perfect read-alike for fans of his writing in Holes.  

Buy a copy of the book here. 

City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

The City of Ember

Set in a dystopian future in a city deep beneath the Earth’s crust, Doon and Lina live in the City of Ember. Dependent upon electricity, citizens of the city feel fear and chaos when the lights begin to flicker. The two friends must embark on an adventure to discover the truth behind the impending blackouts, as they attempt to save the future of their city.

An adventurous tale that focuses on two friends who are seeking answers, this trilogy will strike a chord with fans of Holes who enjoyed the adventurous element of Sachar’s work. 

Buy a copy of the book here. 

Chomp by Carl Hiaasen


For readers who enjoyed the strong sense of setting in Holes, Carl Hiaasen’s Chomp is the perfect addition to your TBR pile. 

Set in Florida, the novel focuses on Wahoo Cray and his dad, who works for a reality TV show named Expedition Survival, about wrangling animals. When the star of the show, Derek Badger insists on using wild animals, and a girl with a troubled past appears on the scene, things get out of hand.

Buy a copy of the book here. 

Wildfire by Rodman Philbrick

Wildfire (The Wild Series): A Novel

As flames engulf the forest surrounding Sam Castine’s summer camp, he knows he must escape. Left behind by the camp’s buses, Sam and a lost girl named Delphy combine forces to dodge the fires and the dangerous men who set them, in a harrowing attempt to save their own lives. 

Similar to Green Lake in Holes, the setting in this novel is an integral part of the story. Readers who love diving into a powerful, gripping novel about survival and strong characters will be obsessed with this one.

Find a copy here.

Echo Mountain by Lauren Wolk

Echo Mountain

When Ellie’s family loses it all in the Great Depression, they homestead on Echo Mountain, nestled in the woods of Maine. After a tragic accident, Ellie’s father lays in their home unresponsive for weeks. Ellie vows to help him however she can, reawakening old relationships and trusting new beginnings. 

A beautiful historical fiction novel with layers of meaning, readers who enjoyed Holes will revel in the intricate characters whose stories are connected in unexpected ways. 

Buy a copy of the book here. 

From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks

From the Desk of Zoe Washington

As Zoe’s birthday approaches, she receives a letter from her father who is behind bars, stating that he’s innocent of the crime he’s been convicted of. Convinced that he’s been wrongfully accused and convicted, Zoe delves into evidence about the case, secretly trying to prove that he’s innocent. 

An empowering and entrancing middle-grade novel, this book is a perfect read-alike for fans of Holes who enjoy themes of family history. 

Buy your copy here. 

Fast Pitch by Nic Stone

Fast Pitch

Focusing on Shenice “Lightning” Lockwood, who is the catcher for the Fulton Firebirds, this novel serves up a family mystery that begs to be solved. While Shenice’s team tries to win the championship, she finds out that her grandfather played in the Negro Leagues and was wrongfully accused of stealing a famous baseball glove. 

A powerful story of a girl who seeks the truth about what happened to her family, readers of Holes who enjoyed the layers of family history will be drawn into the pages of Fast Pitch. 

Buy a copy of the book here. 

Just Like That by Gary Schmidt

Just Like That

Author Gary Schmidt does an unparalleled job of writing books featuring thoughtful characters and layered storylines. Just Like That picks up after the sudden death of Meryl Lee’s best friend, Holling Hood Hood, the main character in The Wednesday Wars. She’s sent to a boarding school on the coast of Maine, a move that her parents think will help her heal. 

As she settles in, readers are introduced to several other characters whose storylines unexpectedly arc into a beautiful explosion of action and surprises. 

Buy a copy of the book here. 

The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson

The Parker Inheritance (Scholastic Gold)

When Candice Miller arrives to stay with family in a small town in South Carolina, she discovers a family secret that leads to a treasure buried somewhere in town. As she investigates, with the help of her new friend, Brandon, she unleashes the truth about injustices and false accusations directed at her family. 

A compelling and layered novel, fans of Holes will devour this addictive novel by Varian Johnson.

Buy a copy of the book here. 

Notorious by Gordon Korman


When Keenan moves in with his father on Centerlight Island, the fact that the town is split between Canada and the US is only the first odd thing he notices.  When he meets ZeeBee, things get a lot weirder. Obsessed with the town’s history as a hotspot for bootleggers during the Prohibition era, ZeeBee is also convinced that someone in town killed her dog. As she recruits Keenan to help her solve the mystery, the two strike up an unlikely friendship and discover the town’s history.

An exciting novel that will resonate with Sachar’s fans, this novel serves up plenty of history drenched storylines to delight readers. 

Buy a copy of the book here. 

Unplugged by Gordon Korman


When Jett is sent to a wellness retreat that requires him to follow strict rules and forfeit his devices, he feels like he’s been sent to boot camp. As he tries to break every rule in an effort to get kicked out of camp, he forms an unlikely friendship with two other kids. When they head into town one day, they discover that the head of the camp has been hypnotizing adults and has devious motivations. 

Fans of Holes will appreciate this wild ride of a book, which features a setting similar to Sachar’s books and draws on the strong character development which made Holes a success.

Buy a copy of the book here. 

Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk

Beyond the Bright Sea

A beautiful novel set on the islands off of Cape Cod, Beyond the Bright Sea, explores themes of family history as the main character Crow discovers her roots. 

Raised by Osh, Crow has no idea where she comes from, until she begins to dig deeper. As she unravels mysteries from her past, danger and understanding await her.

Buy a copy of the book here.

24 Hours in Nowhere by Dusti Bowling

24 Hours in Nowhere

Dusti Bowling’s novels are beloved by middle-grade readers, and for good reason. Each of her books brims with adventure, likable characters, and fascinating plot lines. 

Set in the desert town of Nowhere, Arizona, Gus is saved from bully Bo Taylor by dirt bike racer Rossi Scott when she hands over her bike to Bo. Gus vows to return the favor and ventures into the Dead Frenchman Mine. Flanked by his loyal friends, and Rossi, the four of them find themselves trapped in the mine, desperate to escape. 

Buy a copy here. 

 Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko

Al Capone Does My Shirts

Full of family conflict and strife, this novel is set in Alcatraz in 1935, when Moose’s family moves to the island prison for his father’s job. When his sister, who has autism, is rejected by her school, Moose must care for her. 

Riffing on the same theme of a detention center that Stanley encounters, and with a strong focus on family, Choldenko’s novel will be devoured by those who enjoyed Holes

Buy a copy of the book here. 

When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller

When You Trap a Tiger: (Newbery Medal Winner)

Tae Keller’s Newbery-winning novel is rich with family lore and has such layered characters that any reader will be entranced by her work. When Lily’s Halmoni falls ill, she and her small family move in to care for her aging grandmother. When a mystical tiger appears and offers to heal Halmoni for a price, Lily’s desperation leads her to agree. 

Unlocking powerful Korean folklore, this stunning book is rooted in family history and is layered with tales from Keller’s past generations.

Find a copy of the book here.  

All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor

All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook

Perry’s home is all he has known for all of his eleven years; born behind bars to his mother Jessica, he has been schooled and loved by those around him at the Blue River Co-Ed Correction Facility. When a district attorney orders that he be removed from prison, he is forced to start life anew without his mother and the comforts of the only home he’s ever known.

Focused on reuniting with his mother, Perry’s story is a heartwarming tale about following your heart and will appeal to fans of Sachar’s Holes

Buy a copy of the book here. 

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos

Dead End in Norvelt: (Newbery Medal Winner) (Norvelt Series Book 1)

This hilarious and semi-autobiographical novel is a treasure. When Jackie gets in trouble, he is forced to help elderly Miss Volker write obituaries. Amidst his nosebleeds, the Hells Angels arriving in town, and his revelations about the history of his town, Jackie learns a thing or two about life and death. 

A fun novel to dive into, readers are pulled into the layers of history and the quirky characters Gantos has developed. 

Buy a copy of the book here. 


What other books has Louis Sachar written?

Louis Sachar has authored over 25 books for young readers, including Dogs Don’t Tell Jokes, Sideways Stories from Wayside School, and Fuzzy Mud.

Has Holes been adapted to the screen?

Yes, Holes was released as a film featuring Shia LaBeouf, Sigourney Weaver, Patricia Arquette, and Jon Voight in 2003.

What are authors who have writing styles similar to Louis Sachar?

Authors with similar styles to Louis Sachar include Carl Hiaasen, Gary Paulsen, and Gordon Korman.

What grade level is Holes appropriate for?

Holes has been reviewed as being appropriate for middle grade readers ages 9 and up.

What awards has Holes by Louis Sachar won?

Most notably, Holes was awarded the Newbery Medal in 1999 and the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature in 1998.

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Amy Reddy