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



Look what little treasure we found at our local library! We didn’t even have to dig a hole, it was right there under letter B for Mac Barnett wrote a beautiful story and Jon Klassen illustrated it in a splendid way. (And please don’t comment on my dusty Kentish windows, it is the dirt from the hole the boys dug!)

Sam and Dave went on to find something spectacular and started digging a hole outside their house a Monday morning. After some time and as they had no luck digging down, they decided to change direction but still nothing. Then, they thought that if they split, they would have a better chance to find the treasure they were after. Soon, they ran out of biscuits and chocolate milk and tired as they were, they fell asleep. What will happen? Will they find something truly spectacular?

A lovely story with a superb ending open to multiple interpretations accompanied by the quiet still immensely effective, beige-brown, coloured pencil drawings. Barnett has stated that “…any book is a conversation between the person who is making it or people who are making it and the reader. Any piece of art is a conversation between the creator and the reader, and some conversations demand a little bit more from their listeners than others do.”[1] The book was released in 2014 and has since received a plethora of awards among which the Caldecott Honor 2015 and the Guardian best book for 2014.

Spoiler alert: What really happened? One would advocate that everything was a dream; Sam and Dave never dug that far so they woke up in a small hole in their garden after a nap there. Others would pinpoint that there are some differences between the house on the first page and the one on the last one as the initial apple tree becomes a pear one, the red tulip is replaced by a blue daisy flower and the metal hen on the wind spinner is now a duck. So, have they dug their way to a parallel universe?

Barnett and Klassen , I think, suggest that the journey is what matters in a most sweet manner away from didactic tones and teacherly texts. Therefore, many readers would see that it is a story of a journey through which the heroes grow, change perspectives and the way they see the world.  Sam and Dave get out of the hole as completely different people compared to the ones that entered. The two heroes were only inches away from the treasure every time they decided to change course.  Yet, a closer look will reveal that as the journey progressed, the buried diamonds they passed got bigger and bigger. Even if one doesn’t encounter the treasure, it is important to keep going as the journey will compensate you with more. I couldn’t help but think of C. P. Cavafy’s poem Ithaca “As you set out for Ithaka/ hope your road is a long one,/ full of adventure, full of discovery.”






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