Sam & Dave Dig a Hole, written by Mac Barnett (2014) and illustrated by Jon Klassen, is a great read for little boys and girls. The basic plot of the book is embedded in its title: Two boys named Sam and Dave “dig a hole” in search of “‘something spectacular.’” What the boys don’t know is that they keep digging around huge jewels! Sam and Dave continuously decide which direction they should dig, and each time they change directions they miss the jewel by just a few inches. Of course, Sam and Dave don’t know that they are within reach of “‘something spectacular,’” but readers do; kids will love being in on the secret.
Sam & Dave Dig a Hole is an excellent example of a picture book that utilizes the relationship between text and illustrations. In fact, the book cannot be read without the pictures, nor can it be read without the text. Without the illustrations, there would be no knowing that the boys keep missing their “‘something spectacular,’” because the text makes no mention of it. Yet, without the text, we also wouldn’t know what Sam and Dave are looking for when they dig, without which the story would lose its element of irony.
The collaboration between the illustrations and the text are not just collectively vital to understanding the story; they are also each beautifully crafted. The language of Sam & Dave Dig a Hole is sophisticated, and the illustrations are textured and fun. The text is spare but impactful; Sam and Dave’s simple conversations are delightful, and the surrounding text contains language that will provide teachable moments for kids. Kids who read Sam & Dave Dig a Hole will likely want to embark on their own “‘mission[s],’” “underground,” for “‘something spectacular.’” The illustrations are also exemplary. Readers watch as the scenes become progressively darker with dirt, until whole pages are filled in a way that readers feel like they are immersed underground. Additionally, the book’s design exemplifies a wonderful use of space. The illustrations progressively fill the page more and more as Sam and Dave dig deeper and deeper underground.
Sam and Dave Dig a Hole is a delightful story sure to please children and adults alike. All who read will feel in on the secret. While reading, readers can’t help but ask, “Are they ever going to find ‘something spectacular’?” I recommend Sam & Dave Dig a Hole to anyone who wants to know the answer to that question, and for anyone who enjoys a good story.
— Lauren Heyano