Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen is one of those books where, upon the first read, a grown-up might wonder, “Hmm. So. They dig a hole. And don’t find anything. Then they fall. Ooookay.” It’s on subsequent reads that grown-ups start to notice the little things missed the first time through.
But read it with kids and the magic starts immediately. When Sam and Dave declare they are going to dig a hole and not stop until they find something spectacular, young readers are ready to share the adventure.
At the outset, things don’t look good for our diggers. They just miss a huge diamond, digging straight down, just past it. That certainly would have been spectacular. Sam and Dave’s frustrations persuade them to change tactics. They dig horizontally (and miss something more spectacular). They split up and dig diagonally (missing something even more spectacular-er). When they decide to dig straight down again, they miss the most spectacular-er-est item of all.
Or do they? At the end, Sam and Dave agree that what happened was spectacular, but to me the best discoveries are the ones readers make that get them flipping back through the book.
“Hey, look at their dog! He knows! Was he doing that on the last page?” Flip, flip.
“Wait a second. Didn’t they have an apple tree?” Flip, flip.
“Check out that cat! See how the dog is looking at him?” Flip, flip.
Sam and Dave Dig a Hole pulls kids back inside, that won’t let readers turn the last page, and keeps them searching and discovering more.
And that, you have to agree, is pretty spectacular.