Louis Sachar ( "sacker"; born March 20, 1954) is an American author of children's books who is best known for the Sideways Stories From Wayside School book series and the 1998 novel Holes, for which Sachar won a National Book Award and the Newbery Medal. He also wrote the follow-up called Small Steps.
Louis Sachar was born in East Meadow, New York to Robert and Ruth Sachar, and moved to Tustin, California when he was nine. He grew up in "a happy, normal suburban family," and though he enjoyed school, he did not become interested in reading and writing until high school, when he was inspired by the work of J. D. Salinger and Kurt Vonnegut.
After graduating from high school, Sachar attended Antioch College for a semester before transferring to University of California, Berkeley, during which time he began working at an elementary school to earn college credit. Sachar later recalled,
Sachar graduated from UC Berkeley in 1976 with a degree in Economics, and began working on Sideways Stories From Wayside School, a children's book set at an elementary school with supernatural elements. Although the book's students were named after children from Hillside and there is a presumably autobiographical character named "Louis the Yard Teacher," Sachar has said that he draws very little from personal experience, explaining that "....my personal experiences are kind of boring. I have to make up what I put in my books."
Sachar wrote the book at night over the course of nine months, during which he worked during the day in a Connecticut sweater warehouse. After being fired from the warehouse, Sachar decided to go to law school, around which time Sideways Stories From Wayside School was accepted for publication. The book was released in 1978; though it was not widely distributed and subsequently did not sell very well, Sachar began to accumulate a fan base among young readers. Sachar graduated from University of California, Hastings College of the Law in 1980 and did part-time legal work while continuing to write children's books. By 1989, his books were selling well enough that Sachar was able to begin writing full-time.
In 1998, Sachar published what has become his best-known book, Holes. A darker and scarier work than his previous books, Holes tells the story of Stanley Yelnats, an adolescent who is wrongfully convicted of stealing a pair of sneakers and sentenced to spend 18 months at Camp Green Lake, a remote boys' juvenile detention center where all the boys are forced to dig holes in an arid, dried-up lake bed. Holes sold more than five million copies and won several awards, among them the 1998 National Book Award for Young People's Literature and the 1999 Newbery Medal, which "is the highest honor accorded to children's literature in the United States." As of 2006, Holes remains the only book to have won both awards. When Holes was made into a film in 2003, Sachar wrote the screenplay and made a cameo appearance as Mr. Collingwood, the bald man in old Green Lake whom Sam gives a bottle of onion juice to help him grow hair.
Though Sachar followed Holes with four new installments in the Marvin Redpost book series in 1999 and 2000, and a short Holes spin-off, Stanley Yelnats' Survival Guide to Camp Green Lake, in 2003, the author did not publish another full-length novel in the eight years following Holes. He admitted in 2006 that "being caught up in the whirlwind of Hollywood" during the making of the film Holes was a distraction that made it hard to get back into the "mindset" of writing. During a particularly frustrating part of the film's production, Sachar said he worked for a few weeks on "a follow-up novel that had [Holes characters] X-Ray complaining to Armpit about Hollywood ripping off their story." In 2006, he released the full-length novel Small Steps, which features some of the characters from Holes.
When asked in 2006 about his plans for the future, Sachar replied, "I doubt I will write any more about the Holes characters....I don't have any current plans to [write more Wayside School stories], but I imagine I will someday."
Sachar married Carla Jean Askew, an elementary school counselor, in 1985. They live in Austin, Texas, and have a daughter, Sherre (b. January 19, 1987.) Sachar has referenced both his wife and daughter in his books; Carla was the inspiration for the counselor in There's a Boy in the Girls' Bathroom (1988), and Stanley's lawyer in Holes. Sherre, who was four when the first Marvin Redpost book was written, was the basis for Marvin's four-year-old sister.