Review: Sam & Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett

sam and dave dig a hole

Sam & Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett, Illustrated by Jon Klassen

Barnett and Klassen are an amazing picture book duo who have created with this book an instant classic.  Sam and Dave are two friends who set out to dig a hole on Monday.  They decide that they won’t stop digging until they find “something spectacular.”  They keep digging, deeper and deeper, missing jewels by just a few inches.  They stop and have chocolate milk and animal cookies and then continue to dig.  Maybe another direction will help them find treasure?  But readers will see as they take the turn that they miss the biggest gem yet.  The dog that is along with them though seems to realize that there are things right under the surface, but Sam and Dave don’t pay any attention to him.  They dig and dig, missing everything along the way until they are right above a dog bone.  The two boys take a nap and their dog continues to dig down until suddenly they are falling down from the hole into a world very like their own.  Readers who are paying close attention though will realize that it is a subtly different place.

Children love to dig in the dirt and I think every child has dreamed of digging a truly great hole and finding something amazing.  Barnett keeps his text very straight-forward and simple, allowing the humor to be in the near misses of the illustrations and the perceptiveness of the little dog.  It is this frank delivery that makes the humor of the illustrations really work, giving them a platform to build off of.  The ending is wonderfully open-ended, and some readers will miss the subtle differences and assume they are back home again.  Others though will see the changes and realize that no matter what Sam and Dave have discovered their “spectacular” something.

Klassen’s illustrations are wonderful.  I adore the way that he lets his characters look out from the page to the reader.  He did the same thing in both of his great “Hat” picture books and there is a strong connection from the page to the people enjoying the book.  His illustrations have a textured feel to them, an organic nature that reads particularly well in this dirt-filled world. 

An instant classic and one that will get readers talking about the open ending.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

This Week’s Tweets, Pins & Tumbls

Here are the links I shared on my Twitter, Pinterest, and Tumblr accounts this week that I think are cool:

BLOGGING & BOOK REVIEWS

‘Am I being catfished?’ An author confronts her number one online critic | The Guardian http://buff.ly/1r7WfUc #blogging #authors

Author Stalks Anonymous Blogger Who Gave Her a 1-Star Review http://buff.ly/1tI9dPf #blogging #authors

Battle of the trolls: Kathleen Hale reveals the war raging between authors and readers http://buff.ly/1tOa2WM #blogging #reviews

TLT: Teen Librarian’s Toolbox: Yes we do, in fact, need negative book reviews http://buff.ly/1t97osq #yalit #blogging #bookreviews

CHILDREN’S BOOKS

10 best kid-friendly Halloween books, courtesy New Orleans Public Library’s Beyonka Wilson http://buff.ly/1sTGlzR #kidlit

10 Grimms’ Girls Who Are Decidedly NOT Damsels In Distress| M.A. Larson | http://buff.ly/ZJmdWG #kidlit #fairytales #folktales

The Percy Jackson Problem – The New Yorker http://buff.ly/1DEoWzY #kidlit

Top 10 imaginary friends in fiction | Guardian Children’s books http://buff.ly/1FIWSNX #kidlit

EBOOKS

The Switchboard: Amazon’s giving Simon & Schuster more control over e-book prices – The Washington Post http://buff.ly/1nAyIz3 #ebooks

LIBRARIES

The K.C. and S.F. public libraries are fighting on Twitter, and it’s delightful http://buff.ly/1zmdlqr #libraries

Omaha Mayor’s Office Proposes Letting Police Check Out Library Patron Information | LJ INFOdocket http://buff.ly/1DwnC1X #libraries

Skokie Public Library sets sights on engaging community more | Skokie Review http://buff.ly/1xdrO2H #libraries

TEEN READS

Darren Shan: A damned good storyteller | Irish Examiner http://buff.ly/1ypJysR #yalit

Feiwel and Friends to Publish Cecelia Ahern YA Novels http://buff.ly/1xdpXee #yalit

Thirteen Scary YA Books: Diverse Edition « the open book http://buff.ly/ZI5OCg #diversity #yalit #weneeddiversebooks

Review: Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers

mortal heart

Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers

Released November 4, 2014.

The third in the His Fair Assassin trilogy, this book follows a third sister from the convent of Mortain.  Annith has been kept at the convent longer than her two friends and has never been sent on assignment.  Now she has excelled at all of her training to such an extent that she has surpassed the skills of many of her teachers.  With their Seeress very ill, Annith is proposed to be the next Seeress for the convent, but that would mean that she would never leave, be stuck in stuffy rooms all the rest of her life, and would never put her skills to use.  So Annith works to make sure that the existing Seeress survives her illness, spending long hours nursing her back to health.  When she discovers that even then she will not be sent into the field, she begins to question whether the convent and the Abbess are truly doing the work of Mortain.  So Annith escapes, heading out to see what Mortain has planned for her and her life.  Soon Annith is caught up in the perils of traveling across a war-torn country, fighting for her and her country’s freedom, and falling in love.

LaFevers ends her trilogy on a high note with this book about Annith.  Her trilogy has focused on a different daughter of Mortain in each book, offering a strong cohesion across the series but also a unique perspective and voice with each new protagonist.  Each of the girls is quite different from the other, yet all of them have their demons to face and problems to overcome.  Placed against a backdrop of war and political intrigue, the books ride that wave of ferocity, honor and strategy to great effect.

Annith herself is a very intriguing character.  While the other two books in the series showed her as friendly but rather aloof, this book delves deeply into her motivations and how she came to be the person she is.  As each layer is revealed, her complex personality makes sense and as she begins to leverage it to create the life she wants and deserves, she becomes all the more passionate and powerful.  LaFevers writing is so readable, it gallops along at a fast pace but also is clearly trained and focused. 

A fitting end to a grand trilogy, I can’t wait to see what LaFevers has for us next!  Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from digital galley received from HMH Books for Young Readers and Edelweiss.