Sunday, 15 March 2015

Sam & Dave Dig A Hole

Sam & Dave Dig A Hole

Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen





Warning:  Contains NO spoilers!

The moment we heard Jon Klassen and Mac Barnett had re-teamed we were in; Sam & Dave Dig A Hole was eagerly awaited.  We could find out little more than that Sam and Dave do indeed dig a hole.  Now we know that in their search for something spectacular they find something truly remarkable. 


Never have we encountered a book we were so eager to share and so reluctant to talk about.  We hate to ruin books and we don't like to give the game away; the real joy of reading is in discovering the story, the jokes and the twists and turns for yourself, and for the very first time.  We urge you to read as little about this book as you can but instead go and read the book itself.   


Jon Klassen’s illustrations are wonderfully playful and understated in their subdued colour palette, and the deep rich soil looks utterly inviting.  Together Barnett and Klassen have managed to find that delicate balance where image and text play off of one another to create tension and humour.  We can see the treasures as they are about to be unearthed, but the text seems to mischievously snatch the discoveries from us, and from Sam and Dave, as finding nothing spectacular they change tactics and direction.  The dog, who has also joined their expedition, is a lovely character to follow as he senses all that is around him and is baffled by Sam and Dave’s inability to find anything.  


Mac Barnett’s writing is full of wry humour and laid-back charm.  Sam and Dave’s minimalist conversation is note perfect.  We are treated to the simplicity of childlike determination where whole days are lost to treasure hunts and hours are whiled away in satisfaction even if the end result isn't what was expected.  The joy is in the planning, and in the doing. 


The hardback version is truly beautiful and the design of this book is exquisite.  Instead of starting at the top of the page, allowing the boys to dig down, we begin at the bottom; this way we are treated to the potential discoveries within the earth in shovelfuls and not all at once; this paces the story perfectly and gives a real sense of the digging in action.  The page turns are cleverly used to transport our explorers from the left-hand side of the book, to full page spreads and then over to the right.  Not only does this gives a lovely feeling of physically moving down and around the pages as the boys dig, but it lends a satisfying symmetry to the book which is in keeping with the ending. 


Sam & Dave Dig A Hole is charming, playful and utterly mischievous; we imagine raucous choruses of frustrated children forced to explain this book to the baffled adults around them.  Funny, clever and brilliantly designed, Sam & Dave Dig A Hole is a book that benefits from reading and re-reading; the deeper you dig the more you’re likely to discover.


Top tip:  Pay attention to the endpapers; they may look simple and unassuming but they're as playful and important as the rest of the book.  

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