________________ CM . . . . Volume xxi Number 15 . . . . December 12, 2014


Sam & Dave Dig a Hole.

Mac Barnett. Illustrated by Jon Klassen.
Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press (Distributed in Canada by Random House Canada), 2014.
40 pp., hardcover, $19.00.
ISBN 978-0-7636-6229-5.

Subject headings:
Humorous stories.

Preschool-grade 2 / Ages 4-7.

Review by Ellen Heaney.

**** /4


internal artWhat more straightforward way to start a picture book than with the single line “On Monday Sam and Dave dug a hole.”?

     In this childhood adventure story with an old-fashioned feel, Sam and Dave and their little dog are in search of “something spectacular”. They dig down, and then sideways, then veer off again, all the time just missing finding the large orange-ish stones (diamonds?) that are visible to the reader through the cross-section views of the ground being excavated.

     Supplies of chocolate milk and animal crackers run out. The boys are dirty and exhausted. Sam and Dave fall asleep down their hole. Meanwhile, the dog has scented the presence of a bone, something which readers have also been tipped off to in the last few pictures. When the dog starts to scrabble in the dirt for it, what turns out to be a fragile ledge of soil gives way.


Sam and Dave [and the dog] [and the bone] were falling. Sam and Dave fell down down, down until they landed in the soft dirt. ‘Well,’ said Sam. ‘Well,’ said Dave. ‘That was pretty spectacular.’

     They have landed back on the ground outside the house. The boys are clearly satisfied with the day’s events, and the dog has come out of it with the bone in his mouth.

     Sam & Dave Dig a Hole is a simple, imaginative escapade told with minimal text. The explication is in the pictures as much as in the carefully chosen words of narrative. Barnett has again successfully collaborated with award-winning illustrator Jon Klassen, as he did with the 2012 book, Extra Yarn. (Klassen cleverly chooses his images and makes effective use of negative space on the page. Green, grey and brown tones on a cream background take readers outside and underground with Sam and Dave. Definitely a book for primary school and public library collections.

Highly Recommended.

Ellen Heaney is a retired children’s librarian living in Coquitlam, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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