cover image Sam and Dave Dig a Hole

Sam and Dave Dig a Hole

Mac Barnett, illus. by Jon Klassen. Candlewick, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-7636-6229-5

Barnett’s comic voice is at its driest as he recounts that quintessential American childhood activity—the digging of the giant hole. His deadpan prose mimics the declarative sentences of early readers: “On Monday Sam and Dave dug a hole. ‘When should we stop digging?’ asked Sam. ‘We are on a mission,’ said Dave.” Klassen’s boys, with identical poker faces and glassy expressions, hold their shovels American Gothic–style, considering their next move. Cross-sections of earth show them further and further down, and comic tension erupts as readers see gigantic diamonds buried at intervals underground while Sam and Dave tunnel on, missing every one: “So Dave went one way, and Sam went another. But they didn’t find anything spectacular.” Meanwhile, their dog’s pursuit of a small bone leads further downward, possibly through the Earth and out the “other side.” They land in their own backyard again—or do they? Barnett and Klassen (Extra Yarn) dangle the prospect of fantastic subterranean treasure before readers, but leave them with an even greater reward: a tantalizingly creepy and open-ended conclusion. Ages 4–8. Agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (Oct.)