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Sam and Dave Dig a Hole

by Mac Barnett; Jon Klassen (illus.)

Author Mac Barnett and Canadian  author/illustrator Jon Klassen, the dream team who last collaborated on the Caldecott Honor–winning Extra Yarn, reunite for a striking story that is sure to delight.

As with Barnett and Klassen’s previous book, the brilliance of Sam and Dave Dig a Hole is in the interplay of the deceptively simple text, what the characters know, and what is pictured.

Sam and Dave, along with their highly perceptive dog, set out on a mission to “find something spectacular.” They begin digging, narrowly missing a sizable gem – the first in a series of visual gags that are pure comic joy. Over a snack of chocolate milk and animal crackers, the brothers decide the reason they haven’t found anything is because they’re digging straight down. So they turn right, then split up and go in opposite directions. The story goes on this way, with Sam and Dave narrowly bypassing increasingly enormous gems while their dog grows more and more perplexed that they can’t seem to sense what’s right under their noses.

Exhausted by their efforts, the boys fall asleep. Their canine companion digs for a bone just below their resting spot, and suddenly they’re all falling through the dirt,  then the air, coming to rest in the yard where the story began. (“That was pretty spectacular,” deadpans Sam.)

That seems to be the end of things, but sharp-eyed kids will notice subtle differences between the opening pages and the final spread: the chicken weather vane is now a duck; the colour, shape, and position of the potted flower are different; the cat’s collar has changed; and the apple tree is now a pear tree. Was it all a dream? Did they fall into an alternate reality? Ending with an illustration full of subtext that makes kids think as well as laugh is classic Klassen, and it works. Get ready to add another favourite to your collection.