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Sam and Dave Dig a Hole

Title: Sam and Dave Dig a Hole

Author: Mac Barnett

Illustrator: Jon Klassen

Age Group: 2-5

Synopsis: Sam and Dave are in search of something spectacular and they won’t stop digging until they find it.

The Low Down:

This book spurred a two week long dig-a-thon in our house. We were still living in a temporary apartment and without shovels of any kind so Bug settled for looting spoons from the silverware drawer. We dug in the living room, in the kitchen, in the bedrooms and the hallways. Nowhere was safe from our endeavors. I grabbed this book at the library because we enjoyed Jon Klassen’s hat books and I’ve liked a few of Mac Barnett’s titles too. But this blew us away. I love it when a book clicks with Bug and he refers to it again and again after we read it. Sam and Dave Dig a Hole does not really exude a thrilling plot and the front cover isn’t something that would normally grab a toddler’s attention. But somehow this book works and works well.

It isn’t really necessary to explain the basic plot as the title of the story takes care of that. However, the catch is that Sam and Dave say they won’t quit digging until they find something spectacular. They dig straight down, they dig to the sides, they split up, they work together. And every time they change their strategy they miss a giant gem by inches. Eventually they take a rest and then wake to find themselves falling until they land back in their yard. Deciding that that qualifies as spectacular they return home for animal crackers and chocolate milk. The simplicity of the plot and text spoke wonders to Bug and he enjoyed helping me tell the story after the first read. The only embroidery on the tale involves a fun snack (which will speak to any toddler) and “something spectacular” which became a fun new word to say at home.

Klassen just expands on this with the phenomenal illustrations. They are bare bones that seem to speak to the reader with their simplicity. Sam and Dave can only be distinguished by their hat and bandana color and most pages are mostly dirt. The gems that are so carefully placed out of reach follow this trend and are pale peaches. It draws the reader into the quest, eager to assist in the search for something out of the ordinary. The beginning and end are the real twists though with Klassen placing Sam and Dave in an alternate dimensions. Sam and Dave begin the mission with an apple tree but end at a house with a pear tree. They aren’t truly home but if they are either something has changed, whether it is them or their home.

Sometimes this is exactly how life works. We go searching diligently for something, changing tactics constantly, only to fin it consistently out of our reach. Then when we finally take a rest from our quest our goal finally comes into sight. I’m fairly certain that’s not the message that Bug gleans from the story but instead focuses on how much he too enjoys digging. Either way this book caused the creation of a “spectacular dance” which could only be preformed if we found something worthy of it. Dancing, books, and a request to read more? Always a win in our house.

Story Tips:

  1. Pay close attention to the house that Sam and Dave leave. It isn’t just the apple tree that changes when they return. The cat and weather vane undergo changes too.
  2. Read this with a spoon so little ones can help Sam and Dave dig.
  3. Be ready to go on an adventure afterwords or at least enjoy some chocolate milk.

I need more!

Mac Barnett has loads of titles and has worked with all sorts of illustrators. We really enjoyed his story: Leo a ghost story. More information about current and upcoming stories are available here: https://www.macbarnett.com/books/

Jon Klassen is probably best known for his hat books. Our favorite is We Found a Hat. For more about his work check out: Amazon or Google.

This amazing duo also teamed up for: Extra Yarn and Triangle (due out in spring


Add to my library:

Sam and Dave Dig a Hole (Irma S and James H Black Award for Excellence in Children’s Literature (Awards))

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