Sonderbooks Stand-out

Sonderbooks Book Review of

Sam and Dave Dig a Hole

by Mac Barnett

illustrated by Jon Klassen


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Sam and Dave Dig a Hole

by Mac Barnett
illustrated by Jon Klassen

Reviewed February 17, 2015.
Candlewick Press, 2014. 40 pages.
Starred Review
2015 Caldecott Honor
2015 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #8 Picture Books

This book is simply genius. So simple. And so much to notice.

The plot is that Sam and Dave dig a hole.

"When should we stop digging?" asked Sam.
"We are on a mission," said Dave.
"We won't stop digging until we find something spectacular."

Their dog goes along with them on their adventure. In each spread, we see the cross-section of the hole -- and that they keep just missing a spectacular treasure, in fact, they keep missing treasures that get more and more spectacular.

The dog, however, knows what they're missing. In every picture, he's got his nose pointed toward the treasure that the boys are missing. They decide to stop digging downward, to split up, to turn corners -- all just before they would have found treasure.

Finally, the boys stop and take a nap. This time, the treasure they have just missed is a bone. That one, the dog is not going to leave be.

But when the dog digs for the bone, the floor of their tunnel collapses and they all fall down. . .

until they landed in the soft dirt.

"Well," said Sam.
"Well, said Dave.
"That was pretty spectacular."

And they went inside
for chocolate milk and animal cookies.

At first glance, it looks like they have landed in their own yard, which was pictured at the beginning.

At second glance? Well, something has happened here.

In fact, before our library got this book and I even read it, I read theories about it, thanks to the brilliant Travis Jonker, writer of 100 Scope Notes.

Here are his theories about what happened in the book.

And later, he revisits and gives us a link to what Aaron Zenz and his 9-year-old son think happened.

So you see, this is truly a book for all ages. The words and pictures are simple, even iconic. But the details! And the philosophical questions! This is a book that, besides being a joy and delight, will spark conversations.

Absolutely brilliant.