Story Time Recommendations with Mrs. Smith: ‘Sam and Dave Dig a Hole’

June 9, 2023

“Sam and Dave Dig a Hole” is a delightful tale of two young brothers (and their dog) on a mission to find something spectacular. So, on a Monday morning, they decide to dig a hole to see what they can find. 

Through the successful collaboration of words and pictures, author Mac Barnett and illustrator Jon Klassen use humor and wit to demonstrate the power of friendship, strategic thinking, and determination, culminating in a surprise ending. The illustrations are soft and colored with earth tones befitting a dig in the dirt. 

When Sam asks, “When should we stop digging?” Dave replies, “We won’t stop digging until we find something spectacular.” 

And so, they dig, and they dig, and they dig, dig, dig, but all they see is a deep, dark hole. Meanwhile, their curious canine companion who has joined them on their underground adventure is a keen observer and sees a diamond-shaped treasure where the boys have been digging. Perhaps if Sam and Dave had seen the dog’s reactions to their antics (like the observant reader does), they, too, would have seen the treasure.

As the boys sit in their hole to share a snack, they agree to dig in different directions, still looking for “something spectacular.” All the while their dog continues to spot more shiny gems sparkling in the soil. 

“Sam and Dave Dig a Hole,” written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen. Photo by Doris Smith

Barnett and Klassen illustrate how the two boys have missed several opportunities to discover something spectacular, much like opportunities we ourselves have often missed in life.

After a while, the boys agree that digging straight down might have been the better choice after all. But they are too tired to continue, so they take a much needed rest, while their furry friend does what dogs do best: he digs down and finds a tasty treat.  

A short time later, the threesome finds themselves, along with the bone, falling down, down, down, landing in a soft patch of dirt in the backyard. 

“Wow” says Sam. “Wow” says Dave. “That was pretty spectacular.” 

Even though they hadn’t found any treasures in the dirt (unlike their dog), they realized that, just like in real life, most of the time it’s the experience itself that is spectacular.

As for the surprise ending, if they didn’t notice, readers might want to look closely at the illustrations and compare the beginning pages with the ending pages. What do you see? Did they land in their own backyard or in a setting awaiting another adventure? What do you think?

“Sam and Dave Dig a Hole,” written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen, was published by Candlewick Press – copyright 2014. This book was the recipient of the 2014 Caldecott Honor book for its illustrations as well as receiving many other awards such as the Horn Book Fanfare Best Book of 2014. To see other awards that this book has won go to www.macbarnett.com/sam-dave-dig-a-hole.

Doris Smith worked in the Bedford Public Schools from 1967-2001 as the elementary school librarian covering, at that time, all four schools: Center, Davis, Lane, and Page. She was later the fulltime librarian at the Lane School. She also worked for about five years as the Executive Director of the Massachusetts School Library Association. She continues to pursue her interest in art.

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Doris Smith is an Arts and Cultural Reporter for The Bedford Citizen. She was supported by a grant from the Bedford Cultural Council from December 2022 - June 2023.


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