Sam and Dave Dig a Hole


Written by Mac Barnett, Illustrated by Jon Klassen

Candlewick Press, 2014

Awards: Caldecott Honor

On Monday Sam and Dave dug a hole.

The plot in a nutshell: There is more to this hole than meets the eye

Sam and Dave are on a mission to find something spectacular and they keep digging further and further down, looking for it. When they take a break for some cookies and milk, Dave suggests they try digging in a new direction, so they start digging sideways. Then they split up, digging in two different tunnels until they meet back up and go back to digging straight down. They stop for a nap but their dog continues digging, making a big hole that they all drop through, landing in a yard that looks similar (but not quite the same) as their home. They admit that it was pretty spectacular and go inside for milk and cookies.

It's probably a good thing they didn't find that diamond.  The setting would cost a fortune.

It’s probably a good thing they didn’t find that diamond. The setting would cost a fortune.

Author Mac Barnett can always be counted on to give you something extraordinary and this book is no exception. On the surface, the story seems as straightforward as the title, but there’s a lot more to it than that. I was not surprised to see a lot of people talking online, submitting theories on the symbolism within the story and different interpretations of the ending, including suggestions that the boys fell into a parallel universe, that they are dreaming or even that they died. I believe that there is no ‘right’ answer here. With Mr. Barnett at the helm, the explanation is fully in the hands of the reader.

Jon Klassen’s distinctive illustrations show us significantly more than we are told in the text. As they dig their way through their various tunnels, we get to see that they are somehow managing to avoid finding some pretty spectacular diamonds (that get comically bigger and bigger as they go). The dog that accompanies them, however, seems to know the diamonds are there, as he is generally pointing in their direction as though trying to indicate which way they should be going. In the final picture, after Sam and Dave have gone back into the house (and perhaps after you’ve noticed the ways that this house is different from their original house), the dog and cat share a look between them that seems to say they know something that we don’t. Be prepared for some fun discussion and musing on this story, which is delightful and unexpected at every turn.

And what did we learn?  What I take away from this book is that setting out to find something spectacular is a great goal. Stick to it.


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