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Review of Sam & Dave Dig a Hole

barnett_samanddavestar2 Sam & Dave Dig a Hole
by Mac Barnett; illus. by Jon Klassen
Primary    Candlewick    40 pp.
10/14    978-0-7636-6229-5    $16.99

This adventure starts innocently enough: “On Monday Sam and Dave dug a hole.” The boys (indistinguishable save the color of their hats and Sam’s ever-present backpack) are fueled by chocolate milk, animal cookies, and a desire to find “something spectacular.” Alas, Sam and Dave unearth nothing, coming close to — but just missing — the precious gems that dot the subterranean landscape, and oblivious all the while. Eventually the chums stop for a rest, whereupon their canine companion, digging for a bone, inadvertently causes a rupture in the dirt floor underground that leaves the explorers falling “down, down, down,” only to land in what appears to be their own yard. But upon closer inspection, this house isn’t quite the same as before; a number of subtle differences go undetected by the hapless duo, but observant viewers will certainly take note. Barnett’s well-chosen words (“Sam and Dave ran out of chocolate milk. / But they kept digging. / They shared the last animal cookie. / But they kept digging”) and plentiful white space support readers. Klassen’s cross-section illustrations provide a mole’s-eye view of the underground proceedings, extending the spare text with visual humor. As in his previous books, Klassen shows an uncanny knack for conveying meaning with the subtlest of eye movements. How fitting that the wordless final spread features a knowing look between the dog and a cat familiar to Klassen fans; all that’s missing from the trippy conclusion is the theme music from The Twilight Zone. Mind-blowing in the best possible way.

From the November/December 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

About Sam Bloom

Sam Bloom is a former elementary and middle school teacher. He is currently senior children's librarian at the Blue Ash branch of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County in Ohio.

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Comments

  1. Terrific capsule review of yet another book that I have been hankering to get my hands on. I was in our local Barnes & Noble on Saturday night, and it has not set been placed on the shelves. There does appear to be (based on your ‘trippy conclusion’ assertion) some kinship with Klassen’s 2013 collaboration with Lemony Snickett (THE DARK) though that book was humorless. I agree Klassen is wonderfully spare and concise, and based on what you say here Barnett was a perfect fit for him. The proof will be in the pudding, But I am fully expecting your findings to match my own.

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