Small Steps

Small Steps

by Louis Sachar


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SMALL STEPS is a contemporary young adult novel from Louis Sachar, the New York Times bestselling author of the Newbery Award–winning smash hit phenomenon book and movie/DVD sensation Holes, and The Cardturner.

 Two years after being released from Camp Green Lake, Armpit is home in Austin, Texas, trying to turn his life around. But it's hard when you have a record and everyone expects the worst from you. The only person who believe in Armpit is Ginny, his ten-year-old disabled neighbor. Together, they are learning to take small steps.

 Armpit seems to be on the right path until X-Ray, a buddy from Camp Green Lake, comes up with a get-rich-quick scheme. X-Ray's plan leads to a chance encounter with teen pop sensation Kaira DeLeon, the Beyoncé of her time, and suddenly Armpit's life spins out of control. Only one thing is certain: he'll never be the same again.

 Combining his signature wit with a unique blend of adventure and deeply felt characters, Sachar explores issues of race, the nature of celebrity, the invisible connections that shape a person's life, and what it takes to stay the course. Doing the right thing is never a wrong choice—but always a small step in right direction.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780385733151
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: 01/08/2008
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 45,369
Product dimensions: 7.94(w) x 5.12(h) x 0.62(d)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

Louis Sachar is the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Holes, which won the Newbery Medal, the National Book Award, and the Christopher Award, as well as Stanley Yelnats' Survival to Camp Green Lake; Small Steps, winner of the Schneider Family Book Award; and The Cardturner, a Publishers Weekly Best Book, a Parents' Choice Gold Award recipient, and an ALA-YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults Book. His books for younger readers include There's a Boy in the Girls' Bathroom, The Boy Who Lost His Face, Dogs Don't Tell Jokes, and the Marvin Redpost series, among many others.

Read an Excerpt

A rusted Honda Civic drove noisily down the street and parked across from the mayor’s house. Armpit had finished digging his trench and was attaching PVC pipe. The mayor had gone back inside.

The driver-side door had been bashed in, and it would have cost more to fix than the car was worth. The driver had to work his way over the stick shift and then exit on the passenger side.

The personalized license plate read: X RAY.

“Armpit!” X-Ray shouted as he crossed the street. “Armpit!”

The guys at work didn’t know him by that name, but if he didn’t say something X-Ray would just keep on shouting. Better to answer and shut him up.

“Hey,” he called back.

“Man, you’re really sweating,” X-Ray said as he came near.

“Yeah, well, you’d sweat too if you were digging.”

“I’ve already dug enough dirt to last one lifetime,” said X-Ray.

They had met each other at Camp Green Lake.

“Look, don’t call me Armpit around other people, all right?” Armpit said.

“But that’s your name, dawg. You should never be ashamed of who you are.”

X-Ray had the kind of smile that kept you from hating him no matter how annoying he was. He was skinny and wore glasses, which were now covered with clip-on shades.

He picked up Armpit’s shovel. “Different shape.”

“Yeah, it’s for digging trenches, not holes.”

X-Ray studied it awhile. “Seems like it would be harder to dig with. No leverage.” He let it drop. “So you must be making a ton of money.”

Armpit shrugged. “I’m doing all right.”

“A ton of money,” X-Ray repeated.

Armpit felt uncomfortable talking about money with X-Ray.

“So really, how much you got saved up so far?”

“I don’t know. Not that much.”

He knew exactly how much he had. Eight hundred and fifty-seven dollars. He hoped to break a thousand with his next paycheck.

“Got to be at least a thousand,” said X-Ray. “You’ve been working for three months.”

“Just part-time.”

Besides working, Armpit was also taking two classes in summer school. He had to make up for all the schooling he’d missed while at Green Lake.

“And they take out for taxes and stuff, so really I don’t take home all that much.”

“Eight hundred?”

“I don’t know, maybe.”

“The reason I’m asking,” X-Ray said, “the reason I’m asking is I got a business proposition for you. How would you like to double your money in less than two weeks?”

Armpit smiled as he shook his head. “I don’t think so.”

“I just need six hundred dollars. Double your money, guaranteed. And I won’t be taking out any taxes.”

“Look, things are going all right for me right now, and I just want to keep it all cool.”

“Don’t you even want to hear me out?”

“Not really.”

“It’s not against the law,” X-Ray assured him. “I checked.”

“Yeah, you didn’t think selling little bags of parsley for fifty dollars an ounce was against the law either.”

“Hey, it’s not my fault what people think they’re buying. How is that my fault? Am I supposed to be a mind reader?”

X-Ray had been sent to Camp Green Lake for selling bags of dried parsley and oregano to customers who thought they were buying marijuana. That was also why his family had to move from Lubbock to Austin shortly after he was released.

“Look, I just don’t want to do anything that might screw things up,” Armpit said.

“That’s what you think? That I came here to screw things up? Man, I’m offering you an opportunity. An opportunity. If the Wright brothers came to you, you would have told them it’s impossible to fly.”

“The Wright brothers?” asked Armpit. “What century are you living in?”

“I just don’t get it,” said X-Ray. “I don’t get it. I offer my best friend an opportunity to double his money, and he won’t even listen to my idea.”

“All right, tell me your idea.”

“Forget it. If you’re not interested I’ll find somebody else.”

“Tell me your idea.” He actually was beginning to get just a little bit curious.

“What’s the point?” asked X-Ray. “If you’re not going to even listen . . .”

“All right, I’m listening,” said Armpit.

X-Ray smiled. “Just two words.” He paused for effect. “Kaira DeLeon.”

It was eleven-thirty in Austin, but it was an hour later in Atlanta, where Kaira DeLeon, a seventeen-year-old African American girl, was just waking up. Her face pressed against Pillow, which was, in fact, a pillow. There wasn’t much oomph left in the stuffing, and the edges were frayed. The picture of the bear with a balloon, which had once been brightly colored, had faded so much it was hardly visible.

Kaira groggily climbed out of bed. She wore boxer shorts and was unbuttoning her pajama top as she made her way to what she thought was the bathroom. She opened the door, then shrieked. A thirty-year-old white guy, sitting on a couch, stared back at her. She clutched the two halves of her pajama top together and slammed the door.

The door bounced back open.

“Doofus!” Kaira shouted at the man, then closed the door again, making sure it latched this time. “Can’t a person have some privacy around here!” she screamed, then made her way to the bathroom, which was on the opposite side of her bed.

Over the last three and a half weeks she’d been in nineteen different hotel suites, each with no fewer than three rooms, and one with six. So really, it was no wonder she went through the wrong door. She didn’t even remember what city she was in.

She suspected that Polly, her psychiatrist, would tell her she had done that on purpose; something about wanting to show her body to her bodyguard. Maybe she was better off not telling Polly about it. Everything she said in her therapy sessions was supposed to be confidential, but Kaira suspected that Polly, like a parrot, repeated everything to El Genius.

She had no privacy–not in her hotel room, not even in her own thoughts.

The problem was that, except for Polly, there wasn’t anybody on the tour she could talk to. Certainly not her mother. And not her doofus bodyguard. The guys in her band were all at least forty years old, and treated her like she was a snot-nosed little kid. The backup singers were in their late twenties, but they seemed to resent her being the center of attention.

The only time she felt at peace was when she was singing. Then it was just her and the song and everybody else just disappeared.

Her concert tour would take her to a total of fifty-four cities, so she wasn’t even half done yet. She was now on the southern swing. From Atlanta they’d be going to Jacksonville, then Miami, Birmingham, Memphis, Nashville, Little Rock, and Baton Rouge, and on to Texas: Houston, Austin, and Dallas. Originally the tour was supposed to include San Antonio instead of Austin, but that was changed at the last minute due to a monster truck rally at the Alamodome–not that Kaira cared, or even knew about the change.

Other people took care of things like that. Other people took care of everything. Kaira had accidentally left Pillow behind in New Haven, and Aileen, the tour’s travel coordinator, took a flight back to Connecticut and personally searched the hotel laundry until she found it.

_ _ _

Kaira emerged from the bathroom thirty minutes later wearing a hotel robe. She called room service and ordered a glass of orange juice, pancakes, a cappuccino, and French fries. It would have to last her until the concert. If she tried to eat before the concert she’d puke. After a concert she usually had a bowl of ice cream.

She got dressed, then stepped back out to the sitting area. Fred, her doofus bodyguard, was still there, going through her mail.

“As soon as I turn eighteen, you’re going to be the second person I fire.”

Fred didn’t even look up. It wasn’t the first time he’d heard it.

The television was on CNN. Kaira changed the station to the Cartoon Network.

The first person she’d fire would be El Genius. He was her business manager and agent, and also happened to be married to her mother. They had gotten married shortly before the tour. His real name was Jerome Paisley, but he actually wanted people to call him El Genius. No matter how hard Kaira tried to sound sarcastic when she used that name, he always took it as a compliment.

Her father had been killed in Iraq. His name was John Spears. Kaira’s real name was Kathy Spears, but there was already a famous singer with that last name.

El Genius had come up with the name Kaira DeLeon.

“You mean like Ponce de León?” Kaira had asked him.


Some genius.

Kaira explained to the genius who Ponce de León was, which was why her first CD was titled The Fountain of Youth El Genius thought it looked classy for DeLeon to be spelled as one word, with a capital letter in the middle.

Kaira had learned all about Ponce de León when she was in fourth grade and living at the Pensacola Naval Air Station. She had to learn the history of Florida. By year’s end she was living at Fort Myer, where they’d been studying the history of Virginia all year. She had never spent an entire school year in the same place.

“So, anything from Billy Boy?” she asked Fred.

Fred shook his head.

“Aw, too bad,” Kaira said. “He writes such charming letters.”

“It’s not funny,” said Fred.

“I think it’s hilarious,” said Kaira. She sang, “Oh, where have you been, Billy Boy, Billy Boy? Oh, where have you been, charming Billy?

Billy Boy had sent her four letters so far. He told her he thought she was lovely, she sang like a bird, and someday he would kill her.

El Genius hired Fred after the first letter. Kaira wouldn’t have been surprised if El Genius had actually written the letters, to scare her into staying confined to her hotel room. He was such a control freak. She was sure Fred told him everything she did.

“You got another marriage proposal,” Fred said.

“White or black?”

A photograph had been sent with he letter. Fred looked at it. “White,” he said.

“What is it with you guys?” asked Kaira.

It was her seventh proposal, and every one had been from a white man.

Fred carefully put the letter and the photograph in a plastic bag.

“What are you doing that for?”


“He said he wanted to marry me, not kill me,” Kaira pointed out.

“For some people, it’s the same thing,” said Fred.

Kaira glanced at him, surprised. The Doofus had actually said something kind of profound.

“Let me see what he looks like?”

Fred handed her the plastic bag.

Kaira laughed when she saw the picture. “He looks like you!” The photograph was that of a very muscular man wearing no shirt. The only difference between him and Fred was that his hair was long and wavy, while Fred had a buzz cut.

“You ought to grow your hair out,” Kaira told him as she handed the plastic bag back to him.

Seven marriage proposals, and she’d never had a boyfriend.

Customer Reviews

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Small Steps 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 229 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It wasnt as awesome as holes, but still a really good book 8-)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
They should make of movie of this like holes!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you have ever seen or read the book/movie Holes you will be interested in the book Small Steps. This book is the sequel to the book Holes. The main characters of the book are Armpit and X-Ray; they were both in the first book Holes. Also there is a new character, not in the first book, named Kaira DeLeon, a famous singer. The book takes place in Austin Texas in alower class enviroment. The main event that takes place is Armpit and X-Ray buy six tickets to the concert so they can resell them to make more money. A quality about this book that makes it different than any other book is that it is more relatable to your life like you actually feel his emotions or feelings or troubles. A suprise moment in the novel is instead of resealing two of the six tickets he bought to resell; he keeps two and takes his friend of his that has a disability. Being the sequel to one of my favorite movies was what drew me into the novel. Some examples of excellent writing is for every time the disable person would talk therte would be a stutter. In conclusion if you were considering if this book is worth reading i would highly recommend that you read it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Small Steps is my new favorte book! I truly loved it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is the bomb, i dd not get it on the nook but i read it. It is an awesome book, i recommend it to eveeryone. It has some humor, some romance( no pg-13) , and some innapropriate stuff at the end. Take it from me, an eleven year old girl. REEEEEEEEAAAAADDD IIIIITTTT!!!!!! :) :) :) :) :) :D
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This sequel to Holes follows Armpit (now Theodore) and X-Ray after their release from the now defunct Camp Green Lake. Armpit is finishing high school and is gainfully employed by a landscaping company. (As the owner says, 'You Camp Green Lake boys dig faster than anyone I know.') X-Ray, however, is still scheming--and offers to let his buddy Armpit in on his latest deal. Armpit is torn between loyalty to his friend and wanting to stay on his path to success. Issues of breaking old habits and choosing to do the right thing are at the forefront, making this an excellent read for middle and high school students--and adult fans of the previous book and the movie as well. My 7th- and 8th-grade students are already clamoring to read it! Well done, Mr. Sachar! (...when's the movie?)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
But readbholes first
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is Zbomb love it so much i think its better than holes. Though i do not know what it has to do with HOLES!!!!!!LOL
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I lov smallsteps sooooooooo much
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Read it! It is wonderful, and entertaining!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Best book in the whole wide world
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read holes several times. I am planning on getting this book it sounds good.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book taught me to very impotant lesons. First, take small steps to get through life, if the step you take is too big... the current wil sweep you off your feet. Oh. I forgot there is a number two. Two, people may say mean thing to you or to someone else and before you rush over to them at recess or in the hall...ask your self, do you think what they said is true? Amanda Roodzant
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love the book. It is about Armpit and X-ray from Holes. Recommend to ages 11 and up.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I like both,I really do, but what does small steps have to do with holes but still,you should TOTALLY get this book!
LizzySiddal on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Follow-up to "Holes" in which Armpit and X-Ray try to put their lives in order, not always very successfully. Doesn't quite have the edginess of its predecessor, but still a worthwhile read.
clmattox on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. It is the sequel to Holes. Small Steps follows one of the characters, Armpit. It's about him after he gets out of Camp Green Lake. He is back home and gets into new situations there.
frood42 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Kaira is a lonely teen pop star, managed by her controlling stepfather; Theodore (Armpit) Johnson has returned from Camp Green Lake and strives to keep his life together-- he works for a landscaper, takes summer classes, and has a close friendship with his young neighbor, Ginny. However, Armpit's friend X-Ray develops a scheme that, when it goes horribly awry, will bring Kaira and Armpit together when Kaira's life is in terrible danger. Like its predecessor Holes, this sequel uses good humor and storytelling to confront a number of social issues, including race, class and celebrity culture. Armpit finds himself discriminated against and being treated unfairly by the police because he is a large, African-American man (and even his own parents assume he uses drugs). He works digging holes for minimum wage, yet encounters people willing to spend a hundred times that just for concert tickets. However, this sequel lacks the whimsey of Holes (there are no yellow-spotted lizards) and its villain is disappointingly flat and one-dimensional and not as delightfully villainous as the Warden. Small Steps works alone as a solid teen novel with a riveting plot that does not shy away from difficult issues, however, fans of Holes looking for a similar story may be disappointed. For middle school readers.
shimmer_droplet on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Last we saw Armpit, he was digging holes at Camp Green Lake. Now, Armpit (nicknamed for a wasp bite on his armpit) is still digging holes, but now he's getting paid for it, working for a landscaper in his hometown of Austin, TX. Armpit (or Theodore, as he prefers to be called) is trying to straighten his life out after two years of juvie, while everyone is expecting the worst of him. The only person who believes in him is his feisty ten-year-old neighbor Ginny, who has cerebral palsy. He is earning honest money and going to summer school and trying to stay on the straight and narrow. His life is slowly beginning to get back on track when X-Ray, his old buddy from Camp Green Lake, shows up, with a double-your-money ticket-scalping scheme. Armpit fronts him the money, and ends up taking Ginny to the concert. An incident at the concert vaults him and Ginny into arms of teen pop star Kaira deLeon - and into more excitement that Armpit expected. There are certain books that come together perfectly, as if the author has stumbled across the secret - and it is almost certain that, even though they will write other excellent books, they will never hit upon that secret to perfection again. Holes was one of those books, and as such, Small Steps is not. It is, however, quite a good book on its own. It is a quieter book. It lacks the excitement and magic of all the pieces coming together, of a generation-spanning curse and a rags-to-riches happy ending. But it has something possibly much better. Armpit never gets the happily ever after. What he has are the small, more realistic steps on the way to a happy life. He is realistic and world-wise, and even as Sachar keeps telling us that he has violent tendancies (what sent him to Camp Green Lake in the first place) we keep seeing his gentle side. His relationship with Ginny (especially in contrast with his relationship with Kaira) is wonderful to read, and I'd love to read a Ginny-centric book. I especially enjoyed the lack of a happily ever after ending. Armpit is not a character who would be comfortable with a fairy tale ending. Armpit is a character who wants to work his way to a succesful life on the straight and narrow, and as such, he is a character we can sincerely care about and relate to, and cheer for every step of the way.
TiffanyAK on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a good continuation of the story of Armpit from 'Holes'. While you don't need to read 'Holes' to read this book, it would help you understand the references to Camp Green Lake and help you know about who Armpit and X-Ray are and how they know each other.Armpit is now home from Camp Green Lake and trying hard to get his life back together. He has an honest job and is going to summer school in order to hopefully graduate someday. Dedicating himself to the philosophy of taking small steps towards a better future, he's doing well. But then, his old friend X-Ray shows up with a get-rich-quick scheme, and the ensuing events will launch Armpit on yet another adventure, and put him in danger of legal trouble once again.If you liked 'Holes', then this is a good read. While I wasn't happy with the ending, I would recommend this book for young readers.
ThorneStaff on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In this companion (or sequel?) to Louis Sachar's acclaimed "Holes", "Small Steps" follows the story of Armpit (who prefers to be called Theodore now), one of the kids from Camp Green Lake, as he tries to lead his life after being released.Of course, his path is not quite so smooth as he had hoped, and his old acquaintaince from Camp Green Lake, X-Ray, shows up with a get rich quick scheme for Theodore's hard-earned money. Their plan is foiled, but in the process Theodore meets a famous pop star, and is given first class treatment. But no story of Sachar's would be complete without some twists and turns that turn a run of the mill story into a great page-turner. And, if you're curious, you'll discover how Armpit got his nickname.
SheilaDeeth on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Take Armpit, X-Ray, a teen star and a little girl called Ginny. Add a well-meaning mayor, parents who don¿t understand, other parents who do, and one who doesn¿t even want to. Mix in some ticket scalpers for the teen star¿s concert; plus some impossible coincidences that just have to be the way they are because that¿s how the magic of Sachar¿s stories works. And rest assured it works, beautifully, un-put-down-ably and, just like Holes, delightfully memorably too.
meggyweg on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It was hard to follow up Holes, but Sachar has indeed produced another winner. I like how although they share some of the same characters, both books can stand alone on their own quite nicely. Armpit's struggle to stay on the straight and narrow was realistic and his relationship with Ginny was touching. Kiara's life showed the reader the downside of being a teen pop star¿although she wasn't a drugged-out nympho train wreck like some real pop stars I know of, her life was not her own, everyone around her was using her and she did not know who she really was. I would highly recommend Small Steps to readers who liked Holes. I think it might be suited to a slightly older age group though, since it's a bit darker.