Sam & Dave Dig a Hole

Book review by
Regan McMahon, Common Sense Media
Sam & Dave Dig a Hole Book Poster Image
Quirky tale of boys' spectacular backyard adventure.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Shows young readers the tool needed to dig a hole: a shovel. 

Positive Messages

When you're on a mission, be persistent and keep going.

Positive Role Models & Representations

We don't learn much about the boys -- are they brothers? Friends? All we know is they're persistent and work well together as a team. 

Violence & Scariness
Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that 2015 Caldecott Honor book Sam & Dave Dig a Hole, by Mac Barnett (Extra Yarn) and illustrated by award-winning artist Jon Klassen (This Is Not My Hat, Extra Yarn) is an offbeat tale of two boys (we don't know if they're brothers or friends) who dig a hole near a house and a tree, not wanting to stop till they find "something spectacular." They dig deep into the earth, just missing big and bigger diamonds, and eventually fall through to the other side, where everything looks the same as it did where they started -- almost. It's a brainteaser for young readers and adults who read it aloud. Another example of the quirky wit of Barnett and Klassen. 

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What's the story?

Sam and Dave walk past a house (theirs? one of theirs?) with a red tulip in a narrow pot on the porch and a cat with a red collar. They're carrying shovels and proceed to dig a hole by an apple tree. "We won't stop digging until we fins something spectacular," says Dave. They keep digging deeper, with their deadpan spotted dog by their side, and readers see, via a cross-section view of the earth, that Sam and Dave keep just missing buried diamonds as they change their route, spilt up, and dig sideways. And the missed diamonds keep getting bigger and bigger with every twist and turn. The boys return to digging straight down but get tired and fall asleep. Their dog digs for a bone and falls through the hole into empty space, with the boys tumbling after it, "until they landed in soft dirt." Everything looks the same -- except the tree is now a pear tree, the flower pot is wider and holds a blue flower that matches the cat's blue collar, and the house's weather vane has changed from chicken to duck. Whaaaa? 

Is it any good?

This oddball adventure takes the most everyday kid activity -- let's dig a hole -- and turns it into a weird encounter with another dimension. Author Mac Barnett, known for his twisted sense of humor, explores that age-old question kids contemplate as they dig: What if we keep digging? Will we get to the center of the earth or come out on the other side of the globe? SAM & DAVE DIG A HOLE is Barnett and illustrator Jon Klassen's sly answer. 

Kids will squeal as the diggers just miss the diamonds, and they'll enjoy spotting the subtle differences in the world the boys end up in, once they notice it's not exactly the same world they came from. Some will delight in the open-ended, other-dimensional conclusion. Others may be left scratching their heads. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about digging a hole. Can you really dig through the earth to the other side? What's fun about digging holes? 

  • What do you think of the humor in Sam & Dave Dig a Hole? Is it fun for a story to have an ending that's open to interpretation? 

  • Write a story about ending up in another dimension that looks almost exactly like where you live. 

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