Chapter 1

Camp Green Lake is in a hot area around a dried-up lake, with dangerous rattlesnakes, scorpions, and lizards. It has the shade of only two trees, between which there is a hammock belonging to the Warden.

Chapter 2

The protagonist, Stanley Yelnats, when tried for a crime and given the choice to go to camp or to jail, chooses Camp Green Lake thinking it is a summer camp rather than a labor one.

Chapter 3

Stanley pretends to be going to a camp for rich children and hopes to make friends there. He is overweight and bullied, and he is the fourth member with the name Stanley in a family that has been unlucky since his great-great-grandfather was cursed by a Gypsy for stealing a pig. His great-grandfather made a fortune on the stock market but was robbed by the outlaw Kissin' Kate Barlow when he moved from New York to California. His family lives in a Texas apartment that smells bad because of his father's inventions.

Read a full Summary & Analysis of Chapters 1–3

Chapter 4

At the camp, Stanley enters a building with a sign saying "Camp Green Lake Juvenile Correctional Facility.” Stanley meets Mr. Sir, who makes him remove his clothes, gives him his orange uniform, and explains he will be digging holes every day and that there is no point running away as the camp is surrounded by desert.

Chapter 5

Stanley is assigned to tent D with Mr. Pendanski as his counselor, who warns him not to upset the Warden, says he wants to help Stanley turn his life around, and introduces him to the other boys in his tent: Rex (nicknamed X-Ray), Alan (Squid), José (Magnet), Theodore (Armpit), Ricky (Zigzag), and Zero. After Mr. Pendanski leaves, Stanley asks Theodore where to find water. Theodore throws him on the floor, saying his name is Armpit.

Read a full Summary & Analysis of Chapters 4 & 5

Chapter 6

Stanley takes a cold shower, eats a disgusting dinner, and tells a camper he got into trouble for stealing a pair of sneakers from the famous baseball player Clyde Livingston, which none of the campers believe. Stanley recalls the day he was arrested: after the school bully, Derrick Dunne, threw Stanley's notebook in the toilet, he missed the bus and had to walk home. A pair of shoes fell on his head from a freeway overpass. Since his father was doing experiments with sneakers, Stanley ran home with them. Because he was running, a police car pulled him over and took the shoes, which had been donated by Livingston to a homeless shelter.

Chapter 7

Stanley has a hard time digging his first hole. Mr. Pendanski says he must tell a counselor if he finds anything interesting. Stanley's great-great-grandfather was named Elya. At age fifteen, he asked his friend Madame Zeroni, an old Egyptian woman, for a pig to give Myra’s family and marry her. Madame Zeroni gives Elya a pig under some conditions, but he visits Myra, gives up marrying her, gets on a boat for America, and forgets his promise to Zeroni. Elya marries, has a son he names Stanley because it is Yelnats backward, but after a lot of bad luck, begins to believe Madame Zeroni has cursed him.

Read a full Summary & Analysis of Chapters 6 & 7

Chapter 8

The dangerous yellow-spotted lizards like to live in holes and eat sunflower seeds, and they can leap very high when attacking prey.

Chapter 9

In the recreation room, called wreck room because everything was broken by the campers, Stanley avoids a fight, writes a letter to his mother saying he is having fun, answers a question Zero asks about Livingston's sneakers, and realizes the boys have nicknamed him Caveman.

Chapter 10

While digging his second hole, Stanley finds a fish fossil and gives it to Mr. Pendanski, but since the Warden doesn't want the fossil, he has to finish digging the hole. 

Chapter 11

X-Ray asks Stanley to give him anything else interesting he finds, and Stanley agrees just to please X-Ray. He wonders why X-Ray is the group leader if he is one of the smallest boys and has very poor vision, and enjoys imagining Derrick Dunne being beaten by the campers.

Chapter 12

Mr. Pendanski asks the boys what they want to do as a career after leaving the camp, and Zero says he likes digging holes.

Read a full Summary & Analysis of Chapters 8–12

Chapter 13

While digging, Stanley finds a small gold tube with a heart and the initials KB engraved on it and gives it to X-Ray.

Chapter 14

The next day, X-Ray pretends to find the tube, and the Warden – a tall woman with red hair – gives X-Ray the day off and orders Mr. Pendanski to refill the boys' canteens without questioning her authority.

Chapter 15

The Warden puts two boys on every hole, one digging and the other sifting the dirt, and promises the boys a double shower and the day off if they find anything. Stanley learns that the Warden keeps hidden cameras and microphones all around the camp, realizes she is looking for something, and makes a mental note of the location of the hole where he found the tube.

Chapter 16

The Warden orders Mr. Sir to make the boys work faster. Stanley receives a letter from his mother, saying they might be evicted because of the bad smell of his father's experiments. 

Read a full Summary & Analysis of Chapters 13–16

Chapter 17

The Warden grows impatient and tells Mr. Pendanski he is giving the boys too much water. Zigzag knocks Stanley's head with a shovel, and he, unapologetic, makes Stanley dig the dirt that fell out of his shovel when he was hit.

Chapter 18

The boys dig in another section of the lake. Stanley, now stronger, finishes earlier and goes to his tent write to his mother. Zero asks him to teach how to read and write, but Stanley says he can't.

Chapter 19

Stanley hears Squid crying, but Squid threatens to hurt Stanley if he says anything. Stanley doesn't talk to the other boys much for fear of making them angry. One day, Magnet steals Mr. Sir's bag of sunflower seeds, throwing it to Stanley, but the seeds fall into Stanley's hole. Mr. Sir asks Stanley who stole the seeds, and he takes the blame.

Read a full Summary & Analysis of Chapters 17–19

Chapter 20

Mr. Sir takes Stanley to the Warden but tells her he doesn't think Stanley stole the seeds. The Warden asks Stanley to fetch her a makeup case, paints her nails with a venomous nail polish, and slaps Mr. Sir's face with her wet nails, poisoning him.

Chapter 21

Stanley thinks of how his great-grandfather was stranded in the desert after being robbed by Kissin' Kate Barlow, and then married a nurse from the hospital. When Stanley reaches his hole, he finds that Zero has dug it for him.

Chapter 22

Stanley offers to teach Zero to read if Zero digs his hole for one hour every day. When Stanley finds out Zero is good at math, Zero says he is not stupid – he just doesn't like answering questions. Stanley wonders if the tube he found is a lipstick container, like the Warden's, and the initials "KB" stand for "Kate Barlow."

Chapter 23

More than a century ago, when Green Lake was beautiful, Miss Katherine Barlow was a teacher who made great spiced peaches. One day, a rich man nicknamed Trout Walker for his foot odor invited Miss Katherine for a ride in his new motorboat but was shocked by her refusal.

Chapter 24

Mr. Sir yells at a boy who comments on his swollen face and doesn't give Stanley any water that day.

Read a full Summary & Analysis of Chapters 20–24

Chapter 25

Miss Katherine was found kissing a Black man named Sam, who sold onions, had a donkey named Mary Lou, fixed things for Miss Katherine, and discussed poetry with her.

Chapter 26

At that time, it was against the law for a Black man to kiss a white woman, so people from the town attacked Miss Katherine, who fled with Sam in a boat. Trout Walker crashed his boat into Sam's, shot and killed him, and brought Katherine to shore, where she found Mary Lou shot. After that day, it stopped raining on Green Lake, and Katherine killed the sheriff, kissed his dead face, and spent twenty years as an outlaw known as Kissin' Kate Barlow.

Chapter 27

Stanley starts rationing his water as Mr. Sir no longer fills his canteen and sometimes seems to put something in it. The boys mock Stanley saying he has a slave, Zero, who digs for him. Zero tells Stanley his real name is Hector Zeroni.

Chapter 28

After twenty years, Kate Barlow returned to Green Lake. Having lost all his money, Trout Walker and his redhead wife tied Kate up, demanded her loot, made her walk barefoot across the hot sand until she died from the bite of a yellow-spotted lizard, but they never learned where her money was.

Chapter 29

Stanley sees thunder and lightning, but no rain, near a mountain that looks like a giant fist with a thumb sticking up, and thinks about his great-grandfather finding refuge there.

Read a full Summary & Analysis of Chapters 25–29

Chapter 30

The boys taunt Stanley for having Zero dig holes for him, and Mr. Pendanski forces Stanley to fight Zigzag, who is then attacked by Zero. When the Warden comes and the boys tell her Zero is digging holes for Stanley, he explains he is teaching Zero to read and the Warden forbids him to do so. When Mr. Pendanski taunts Zero about his stupidity, Zero smashes his face with a shovel and runs away.

Chapter 31

Stanley tries to think of ways to help Zero. Mr. Pendanski and the Warden discuss changing Zero's records so no one will ever find him.

Chapter 32

A new boy, arrested for stealing cars, takes Zero's cot. His name is Brian, but he is nicknamed Twitch. To help Zero, Stanley steals Mr. Sir's truck, drives it into a hole, gets out, and runs away.

Chapter 33

No one follows Stanley. As he walks, he encounters many holes, a family of yellow-spotted lizards, and one sunflower seed in a bag.

Chapter 34

Walking toward the thumb mountain, Stanley finds part of a boat named Mary Lou and Zero in a hole under it.

Chapter 35

Zero looks sick but refuses to return to camp. He shares some jars with a muddy looking liquid he calls sploosh, and Stanley thinks it tastes like peaches.

Read a full Summary & Analysis of Chapters 30–35

Chapter 36

Zero and Stanley walk toward the thumb mountain with Zero's shovel, some sploosh jars, and the sunflower seed bag. As Zero has stomachache attacks, Stanley spells words for him and helps him with the shovel.

Chapter 37

Zero throws up along the way to the mountain.

Chapter 38

Stanley leaves the shovel and jars on the ground to carry Zero, who has fainted, up the mountain. There, they each eat half of an onion that Stanley digs out of the mud.

Chapter 39

Stanley wakes in the middle of a meadow, Zero confesses stealing Clyde Livingston's shoes from the homeless shelter and apologizes to Stanley, and Stanley sings him the song Madame Zeroni taught his great-great-grandfather.

Chapter 40

The narration shifts back in time, when a woman thanks Sam for an onion remedy that saved her daughter's life, then back to Stanley and Zero, who spend two days eating onions and drinking dirty water. Stanley goes down the mountain to fetch the shovel and jars he left behind.

Chapter 41

Zero tells Stanley he stole Livingston's shoes because he thought it was better to steal old shoes than new ones. When people were upset with the shoes' disappearance, Zero placed them on top of a parked car, stole some new shoes, and was arrested for that.

Chapter 42

Zero and Stanley make a hole for water. Stanley realizes he is happy because he now has a friend and likes himself. He plans to secretly return to camp to dig up the treasure in the hole where he found the lipstick tube.

Chapter 43

Zero tells Stanley his mother used to sing him the same song Stanley sang, but with different words. One day she left him in a park, asked him to wait for her, and never returned. Zero and Stanley pack water and onions and return to the camp.

Read a full Summary & Analysis of Chapters 36–43

Chapter 44

After dark, Stanley and Zero dig up a suitcase, but are discovered by the Warden.

Chapter 45

When the Warden notices a yellow-spotted lizard on the suitcase and that Stanley is standing in a lizard's nest, she waits for the lizards to leave and tells the boys, Mr. Pendanski, and Mr. Sir that she grew up digging holes with her parents, looking for the suitcase.

Chapter 46

While Stanley and Zero try to stay still, the Warden says that after Stanley dies, she will say that he was delirious, ran away, and was bitten by a lizard. Mr. Sir tells Stanley that his lawyer had shown up the day before saying he was innocent of stealing the shoes.

Chapter 47

As the sun comes up, the lizards crawl away from Stanley, and Zero asks him if his first name is his last name spelled backward. Stanley's lawyer, Ms. Morengo, comes with the Attorney General and threatens to file charges against the Warden if anything happens to Stanley. The Warden says Stanley stole the suitcase, but Zero says it belongs to Stanley and shows his name printed on it.

Chapter 48

The Warden says Stanley doesn't know what is in the suitcase and demands he open it, but his lawyer tells him not to and that he can leave freely. Stanley refuses to leave without Zero and Ms. Morengo demands to see Zero’s records, but these have been erased by Mr. Pendanski. Ms. Morengo takes Zero and Stanley, but before they leave, Squid gives Stanley his mother's phone number and asks him to tell her he’s sorry.

Chapter 49

Sam used to give hunters onion juice because lizards don't bite people with onion blood. Ms. Morengo shows Stanley and Zero the cure for foot odor that Stanley's father invented, which smells like peaches. When Zero tells her he stole the sneakers, she asks him never to say it again. For the first time in 100 years, rain falls on Camp Green Lake.

Chapter 50

The camp closes and the Warden has to sell her family's land. The suitcase contains jewels, deeds, and stocks, and Stanley and Zero receive almost a million dollars for these. Stanley buys his family a house and Zero hires a private investigator to find his mother. Stanley, Zero, Clyde Livingston, and Zero’s mother gather to watch Livingston advertise sploosh, Stanley's father's invention. Zero’s mother sings him the song Madame Zeroni taught Elya Yelnats.

Read a full Summary & Analysis of Chapters 44–50