Book Review – Sam and Dave Dig a Hole

Mac Barnett’s children’s picture book, Sam and Dave Dig a Hole, illustrated by Jon Klassen, found its way into our home this past week and laid upon my son’s floor along with many, many others. The routine unfolded as it typically does, with him picking out which book(s) to read before bed. When you read as many books as my wife and I do, it’s a true pleasure coming across one as delightful as this.

It’s really no wonder why it won a litany of awards and honors. Although the premise is perfectly simple; in that two young boys decide to dig a hole to find something spectacular, the delivery is outstanding. As each scene develops, the boys nearly arrive at spectacular things, only to give up on their current course at the last possible moment. The reader, instead, gets to enjoy the hidden gems throughout the book and is reminded to persevere in their own hole digging adventures.

As a children’s book author, I’ve pondered what made Sam and Dave Dig a Hole such a wonderful read and I came to the following conclusions.

  1. The message applies to everyone. Children love to dig and children love to find.
  2. The plan was simple. It didn’t take pages to develop the plot. Within a single page, readers understood what the book would be about.
  3. The delivery built suspense in the reader. Before the reader thinks the book will be boring, the suspense comes in finding something spectacular. The reader immediately wonders what they might find.
  4. The illustration propelled the story. Great artists can tell a story without words. Add a great artist to a great author, and you’ve got two messages waylaying the reader. The author tells us what the boys are doing. The illustrator tells us what the boys are missing.
  5. A little humor is mixed in. The two boys, Sam and Dave, are accompanied by their friendly dog who, much like the reader, knows what the boys are missing.
  6. The repeated plot develops rather than stagnates. On each subsequent page, the boys keep digging and keep missing. Whereas this could become monotonous, the hidden gems become more and more spectacular. This wets the reader’s appetite in wondering what spectacular thing might come next.
  7. The ending is open, deep, and leaves readers thinking about the book. I could offer a number of assumptions what the ending of the book means, but that would spoil all your fun. It’s simple yet incredibly complex.

Not only do I encourage you to check this book out from your local library or purchase it as a forever book, I encourage you to create a book this good. Whether your an author or illustrator, take time to make sure your children’s book will deliver a wonderful experience. And if you’re Mac Barnett…TELL US WHAT THE ENDING MEANS, PLEASE!

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