More stories like Holes by Louis Sachar
August 31, 2016 4:30 AM   Subscribe

We can't teach Holes anymore. What novels do you recommend for Year 8- hopefully with a female protagonist and an Australian setting (or author.)

We've been teaching Holes by Louis Sachar at Year 8 for a few years now, and we're a bit devastated, really, that the primary schools are now doing it, which means that the kids say "yeah we've read this, in Grade 5."
What we like about Holes:
* It's easy to read, especially for reluctant readers
* The characters are the same sort of age as our 8th graders and are relatable
* It's a fairly modern setting (or can be assumed to be!)
* There's a nice message about not giving up
* The characters demonstrate change across the narrative
* It's a fairly 'light' story with humour. (We do The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas in the second half of the year, which is a much 'heavier' text.)
* It's not a massively long text.

So, we're looking for something similar. However, since we're swapping texts, we have a few things we're looking for.
* a female protagonist
* an Australian text (helps us meet curriculum requirements.) Hopefully an Australian author.

Bonus points for female author.

Also, it needs to be readily available for purchase by students.

We do a few World War Two era texts in Year 7 and 8 so trying to avoid that for this text.

Basically, if you could find Holes, set in Australia with a female protagonist, that would be amazing!

So, can you suggest the perfect Holes replacement? Thanks!

("we" is a team of English teachers at a rural Victorian school in Australia.)
posted by freethefeet to Education (17 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I ADORED THIS NOVEL AT THAT AGE! Girl protagonist! So excellent! Unfortunately not Australian... but still an incredible book.

A Handful of Time
posted by Dressed to Kill at 5:45 AM on August 31, 2016 [3 favorites]

Jellicoe Road might be a little too mature, but it's a fab read.

In trying to come up with the name, I found this list.
posted by quadrilaterals at 6:36 AM on August 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

disclaimer: I sincerely apologize if you hate this book, if it's overdone, very commonly taught where you are, etc. I have no idea what is/isn't taught in Australian schools.

a favourite book of mine that was taught in grade 10 at my high school was Looking For Alibrandi. I can't remember anything that was too mature or touchy in it so it may be appropriate for year 8 (though of course you should vet it first). it's set in Australia and features a great, relatable female protagonist. although it was considered a bit "girly" when our teacher introduced it, the boys in the class ended up liking it just as much as the girls did. it covers some good topics for year 8 - give it a shot.

(true story: when visiting Sydney earlier this year, I took a picture of every sign we saw that said Parramatta simply because I remembered "Parramatta Road" fondly from this book.)

I wouldn't compare it to Holes, but if it helps at all, I liked Holes too!
posted by gursky at 6:40 AM on August 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

What about Malala's story? My kids love Malala. My eight year old read her young adult book. My six year old read the picture book of her life.
posted by taff at 6:54 AM on August 31, 2016

Justine Larbalestier has a bunch of YA Australia-set novels, any one of which might be what you're looking for.
posted by infinitewindow at 6:57 AM on August 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

Ivan Southall tends to have groups of kids rather than individuals as his protagonists. I loved his books as a kid (1960's, 70's) so sensibilities may have changed.
posted by firstdrop at 7:03 AM on August 31, 2016

I'm not sure if Tomorrow, When the War Began is a "good" enough book to be read in a school context, but it hits many of the things you're looking for.

I also loved Z for Zachariah when I read it around that age, but the topics may be a little too mature for a whole-class read.
posted by Betelgeuse at 7:04 AM on August 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

Commonly taught in the US at that age range are:

The Outsiders

The closest book that I could think of that might meet your parameters (NZ, sorry) is:

The Whale Rider
posted by TomFoolery at 9:32 AM on August 31, 2016

More thoughts... Perhaps browse this list.

Also commonly taught in the US:
The Giver
Maniac Magee

The His Dark Materials trilogy might be a good fit, but can be controversial to some groups of people.
posted by TomFoolery at 9:39 AM on August 31, 2016

Maybe Follow the Rabbit Proof Fence? The girls are about the same age, but I don't remember whether the book was marketed as YA or adult.

Looking for Alibrandi was made into a movie several years ago. IIRC the girl was around 15.
posted by brujita at 12:27 PM on August 31, 2016

It doesn't meet all of your requirements, but The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf may be of interest.
posted by missrachael at 12:39 PM on August 31, 2016

Unfortunately not at all Australian, but I am Princess X is very contemporary in feel with a well-written female protagonist.
posted by happyroach at 3:22 PM on August 31, 2016

Seconding Tom Foolery's suggestion of Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli (1990 Newbery Medal winner). It was the first book that came to mind when thinking of a book similar to Holes and it ticks most of your boxes. The protagonist isn't female, but there is a major character that is.
Bonus: It is very popular in the US, so there are a ton of study guides and cool project ideas already out there.
posted by NoraCharles at 4:42 PM on August 31, 2016

Looking for Alibrandi is hugely well known in Australia and deals with a couple heavy issues like suicide, so I wouldn't pick it here. But Finnikin of the Rock, also by Melina Marchetta, is perhaps the right age range/mystery/adventure fantasy? The hero is a boy but there's a strong leading girl, and a later book in the series is from the point of view of a different girl.

My old high school now reads Falling from Grace in Year 7, which might do but sounds a little more serious than Holes. Or there's Playing Beattie Bow, although that's a little older.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 11:30 PM on August 31, 2016

Seconding Justine Larbalestier.
posted by azalea_chant at 12:09 AM on September 1, 2016

Response by poster: Thanks all, appreciate your suggestions

Yes, we've been doing Looking for Alibrandi in Year 10, and now that we're doing Risk in Year 9 it's a bit dated so we're also looking for a replacement there- but that's a different question! (LFA is definitely too heavy for Year 8, and is about the last year of high school so not really relevant.)

Our kids tend to be a bit sheltered, especially coming in to Year 8. We're looking for something of equivalent 'lightness' as Holes.
posted by freethefeet at 6:19 AM on September 1, 2016

Response by poster: Our two options ended up being
The Bone Sparrow (which was a bit too much like Boy in the Striped Pyjamas) and Tuck Everlasting - which we've taught before.

So yeah- we went with Tuck Everlasting (which admittedly only ticks our female protagonist box, but we can sort out the Australian content requirement with short stories.)

Hope this thread is useful for others though!
posted by freethefeet at 12:20 AM on September 10, 2016

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