FICTION

Sam & Dave Dig a Hole

illus. by Jon Klassen. 40p. Candlewick. Oct. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763662295.
COPY ISBN
PreS-Gr 1—The winning picture book team that created Extra Yarn (HarperCollins, 2012) is back together in this understated, humorous, and charmingly perplexing tale. Sam and Dave, who are either identical twin boys or friends who look astonishingly alike and share a sartorial sensibility, set out to dig a hole in the hopes of finding "something spectacular." With shovels in hand, the boys (with an eager terrier looking on) begin to tunnel into the soil, but they just can't seem to find anything of interest. What works spectacularly is the clever play between words and pictures. As in Klassen's This Is Not My Hat (Candlewick, 2012), readers are in on a joke to which the characters are oblivious. Namely, that each time the boys change direction, they narrowly miss discovering increasingly enormous jewels hidden in the earth. The book progresses with each verso showing the boys' progress, while the recto features simple text, mostly dialogue between the practical but unlucky explorers. About halfway through, a spread reveals a diamond so large it can barely be contained on the page; it dwarfs the two boys and their trusty canine companion—but all for naught, since they decide to dig in a different direction. Exhausted and covered from head to toe in dirt, Sam and Dave decide to take a rest. Klassen's use of muted earth tones and uncomplicated compositions is paired well with Barnett's deadpan humor. As they nap in their hole, the dog continues to dig…until suddenly the trio is falling; they soon land in a place that looks an awful lot like home. Small details reveal that this house and its inhabitants are ever so slightly changed. Are they dreaming? On the other side of the world? In a different dimension? Readers will have to puzzle that one out for themselves.—Kiera Parrott, School Library Journal
Sam and Dave hope to dig up "something spectacular" but, alas, unearth nothing, repeatedly coming close to (but just missing) precious gems. When their dog, digging for a bone, ruptures the hole's dirt floor, the explorers fall "down, down, down," and land in what appears to be their own yard. Well-chosen words and plentiful white space support readers; cross-section illustrations add visual humor.
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. sam bloom

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