Sam & Dave Don’t Just Dig A Hole

Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen

Published by Candlewick Press in 2014

I bought this picture book because I LOVE Jon Klassen. He’s a Canadian illustrator living in the states. He has a unique style that is humorous, gorgeous, and yet gritty. Sometimes he acts as illustrator (like with Sam and Dave) and other times writes and illustrates (This is Not My Hat and my favourite I Want My Hat Back). This is my first experience with Mac Barnett, but I am now a fan (not to mention he took classes with David Foster Wallace which is really, really cool. As a English major I am currently turning green with envy).

Sam and Dave is not what we in the Children’s lit biz call a twice told story, meaning the text and images do not tell exactly the same story. The text tells readers of friends Dave and Sam who “dug a hole” and decide they won’t stop digging “until we find something spectacular” (npg). The images illustrate that text, and add to it, in that the boys continually decide to change the direction of their digging right when they’re about to stumble across a big diamond (which their dog companion appears to be able to smell. I wish Wallace had this super power. I would be living a much different life if Wallace could sniff out buried diamonds). This is an example of how the illustrations add to the narrative, for there is no mention of the diamonds which grow bigger and bigger the deeper they dig, in Barnett’s text.

As well, the boys dig themselves into a parallel universe (?) that is not mentioned in the text. The boys start digging in front of a house with a cat sitting on a porch and a growing apple tree in the yard. Sam and Dave dig right through the earth and they fall to what on first glance looks like the same house from the beginning. However, on closer inspection you see the cat is wearing a different coloured collar, the tree is now a pear tree, along with other changes. This is not mentioned in the text. Actually, Sam and Dave don’t seem to notice any difference. Once again, it is only the observant dog that notices they are not where they started (Wallace and I really like this dog).

These type of “yes, and” (term stolen from improv) picture books are awesome for readers as young as they can come. Even if they don’t know how to read the text, they can keep uncovering a more complex story through the illustrations when the text is read to them, or when looking at the book alone. This provides the opportunity for new interpretations to be discovered upon several readings.

This book is deceivingly simple (Sam and Dave dig a hole), but the interaction between Barnett’s text and Klassen’s illustrations makes for a changing reading experience, making this picture book one that can be read over, and over, and over again before discovering all the secrets.


13 thoughts on “Sam & Dave Don’t Just Dig A Hole

  1. Pingback: Review: I Want My Hat Back | Reading With Wallace

  2. At first when I read this book I thought… what? That wasn’t very speculator… It wasn’t until I read it over a few times, and took your advice of looking at the paratext that I got it. Of course the kids in my class thought it was pretty speculator on the first reading! Thanks for speaking to my grade 6 class and helping them once again to see the value in picture books!


  3. Book Review
    By Denya:

    Sam and Dave Dig a Hole
    By: Mac Barnett / Jon Klassen

    Hi Anah, It’s Denya from the Schmizelson class and this is my review on Sam and Dave Dig a Hole.

    Sam and Dave Dig a Hole is about two boys who want to do something spectacular. Sam and Dave decide to dig a hole and see what they can find. When the boys were digging they would always dig in one area and then start digging in a new area underground. When they did this they would always miss diamonds which I thought were pretty spectacular. Towards the end of the book Sam and Dave’s dog started helping them dig. Eventually they dug too much and fell into a place that looked like a parallel world.

    When I first read the book; Sam and Dave Dig a Hole I thought it was meant for younger kids and not really for teens. However, after I read it a few more times I started to notice more things in the book (mostly the pictures) that I didn’t see before. The images told a counterpoint tale which means the images and text don’t tell the same story. I also noticed that the pictures gave the reader clues about the book that helped them understand the book a bit more. Trying to find the moral or lesson in the story was a bit challenging since it was a picture book. After I looked over the book with a couple other people I figured out what it was. “ When you start something amazing don’t give up, try your hardest until you succeed.

    I think this book would be good for both kids and adults because young kids will enjoy it and love how two boys dig a hole. I also think adults will also enjoy it because they will be able to notice things in the pictures and see what the author was trying to tell the reader. I hope you enjoyed my book review.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Denya, thanks for your review! I like the moral you got from the book! I think a second one could be: “Pay Attention to Your Dog.” I hope this helped excite you about picturebooks, and hopefully we can discuss more of them.


  4. Hi it’s Jorja from Grade 6!

    The first time I read the whole book, I thought that they just dug a hole, found nothing and they climbed back up. Yet, taking your advice of looking at the details and to see if it is a twice-told tale or not, I was able to look at the pictures and found the almost spot the differences on the last page.

    First off, I would like to mention that Jon Klassen did a spectacular job of not just aiming for one age group. I could tell because I enjoyed it and I know that anyone younger than me would enjoy it as well.

    I like how throughout the whole story, there were little hidden bits of information. Like how the dog found his bone and they fell. This is important because if you just read it, you wouldn’t know what’s really happening. Some other examples of this are: when the wind vane flips, when the setting looks different at the end.

    I love how in the beginning, they explain how they wont stop digging. This is a more non-obvious way for kids to learn persistence. If you try once and you fail, you just have to keep trying. All kids at a young age are prone to do what their surroundings. I think that this book would be a good influence for younger kids because if they see someone else doing, they will want to keep doing it too.

    Another part that stood out to me was the visuals. Although they don’t make sense, it is another key for kids to look at to realize how close they were to the diamonds. In reality, they wouldn’t be able to see how close they were to the diamonds.

    Answering the second question, where they ended up. This is a big topic, yet I think that if a younger audience read it, they wouldn’t pay very much attention to the pictures at this part in the book and they would just think they got out of the hole. Yet, looking at this book form a more mature lens, I was able to almost spot the differences. In my opinion, they ended up in an alternate universe that looked the old scenery.

    Overall, I think that this book is an insightful picture book for all ages and can have a deeper or a less deep meaning for different people.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Sam and Dave Dig A Hole Book Review
    By: Nadia

    Hi Anah, it’s Nadia from Ms. Schmitzelson’s class.
    The book I am reviewing is Sam and Dave Dig A Hole. The author is Mac Barnett and it is illustrated by Jon Klassen. Sam and Dave are digging a hole in their backyard because they want to find something spectacular. All day they keep digging, just to find that something. They are always passing diamonds but do not know it, and just keep going.

    I enjoyed this book because it is not like every other book. When Sam and Dave don’t find something right away, they keep going and do not give up. Not like almost every other book when they give up after five minutes. It was nice that it was a counterpoint tale and not a twice told tale. The words are just saying that they dig a hole while the illustrations show that they are missing diamonds that are getting bigger every time. To me it seems like they are leaving soft of a cliff hanger every time they pass a diamond. You don’t know what they are going to do or which direction they are going to dig in next. It is also sort of a cliff hanger when they fall through the ground. That really got me thinking of what was going to happen next. It has a really valuable moral that everyone should use, it doesn’t matter what age you are. The moral is to never give up. It shows that you shouldn’t give up anything until you succeed. I also found that even though there was no antagonist, it always seemed like something stood in their way. I have read this book many times and still can not figure out what that thing is. I enjoyed how they used foreshadowing. They used it at the very beginning and at the very end when they were in a backyard. The only thing is the backyard at the end looked exactly the same as the backyard in the beginning except of some really small things like what time of tree it was.

    I think a good audience for this book would be between the ages of six and twelve. I think this because in this age range they would be able to get the deeper meaning of this book right away. If not that, after two or three reads all the way through the book. I am recommending this book for this age group not just because they will get the deeper meaning quick, but, also because they would enjoy it the most. At the very end they can use their imagination and I think around that age, they have the biggest imagination out of all.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Sam and Dave Dig a Hole
    by: Mac Barnett and John Klassen
    Anyways, the book is about 2 people digging a hole at their home to find treasure ( something spectacular ).However they can’t find anything even though it’s right under their noses. So throughout the book Sam and Dave take different approaches by digging all over the place , but end up short . Until something truly spectacular happens.

    This book is written with lots of thought you can tell the author put lots of detail into the illustrations, which make it such a amazing counterpoint tale. Sam and Dave never gave up and that is teaches us an important moral for the future to never give up as well, however it’s incredible how you can put such important moral in a picture book. The illustrations show a lot of detail that gives the reader everything they need to figure out where Sam and Dave are , what they are doing and what for. So has a reader it is very important to notice all the little details. In my opinion , the author not only made an incredible book but also made me think an extra mile. I love how the book keeps on having problems coming but Sam and Dave always overcomes them by problem solving the situation.

    At first I didn’t get the story at all and had no interest in silly picture books , or so I thought. In the following classes we read it again , I had no clue why we were reading the book again , but I got so intrigued I wanted more answers. Sam and Dave is a spectacular story, This book is great for any audience because there are different ways you can see the story, For instance you can see Sam and Dave just digging a hole to find something , or you can see it as a journey that Sam and Dave going through to find something spectacular.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi! This is Anikka from the Schmitzelson’s class.

    Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett is about two good friends who decide to dig a hole. They do not want to stop until they find something spectacular. They dig deeper and deeper and just when they stop digging, they think they didn’t find anything spectacular. But who knows, maybe they did.

    The first time I read Sam and Dave it confused me. I had to read it again to even make a guess about how it ended and what it meant. Then I learned about the paratext in the book that is a very big part about understanding the ending. There are two pictures that give a very mysterious ending and keep you wondering about it. I liked how in Sam and Dave the illustrations helped me understand the text very well. I also liked the lesson of how sometimes you think you didn’t find anything spectacular but really you did without knowing it.

    I think that Sam and Dave Dig a Hole is a good book for everyone but especially kids from the age of 5 to 15. I recommend people to read this book because it has a great plot and really makes you think and wonder at the end. It has little things you notice each time you read it and is a funny enjoyable book with a great moral.


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