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.

Review: The Hole by Oyvind Torseter


The Hole by Oyvind Torseter

Released August 27, 2013.

This Norwegian import is an almost-wordless picture book that will surprise and delight.  It is the story of a rounded-nosed creature/person who discovers a hole in his wall in the apartment he just moved into.  But when he tries to see where the hole is coming from, he discovers that it is only on one side of his wall.  The hole moves to the floor and trips him, so he calls for expert help.  He manages to catch the hole in a box and takes it to a laboratory for scrutiny.  Finally, the hole is gone from his apartment.  Or is it?

With a hole punched right through the book, you know it is a stationary thing.  But the art makes it shift and move around the illustrated space to great effect.  Torseter has a great sense of pacing here with tension building as the reader knows of the hole before the main character sees it.  They are also very aware of the fact that the hole never really went away too.  As the hole is taken to the lab, Torseter shows us the scenes he passes through, each with a hole but a different one. 

Entirely playful and a truly wondrous look at the world, this book will have you reading it again right away.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Enchanted Lion Books.

Roslyn Rutabaga and the Biggest Hole on Earth

Roslyn Rutabaga and the Biggest Hole on Earth by Marie-Louise Gay

Roslyn woke up in the morning knowing just what she was going to do that day.  She was going to dig the biggest hole on earth in her backyard.  Over her breakfast of carrot flakes, she told her father about her plan and he thought it was a good one.  She just had to be back for lunch.  Roslyn careful chose the perfect spot for her hole.  But when she started digging there, a worm complained that she was digging up his front yard and should dig somewhere else.  She moved near the fence but then a grumpy mole stuck his head out and complained that she was digging up his bedroom.  She moved near the lilac bush and started digging again.  She dug until she found what she thought was a dinosaur bone!  But the dog that had buried it came and told her that she was digging up his stash of bones.  Roslyn gave up.  She lay in the bottom of the hole.  Just as she was despairing, her father arrived with carrot sandwiches to lift her spirits.

This book captures a child’s view of the world where the obstacle is not the big idea but the small hurdles on the way to fruition.  Gay has written a book about a child with plenty of ideas and energy who is supported by a loving adult.  Roslyn is told along the way by everyone except her father that the hole will never be that big, that she will never dig to the South Pole, that she should give up.  This is a lesson in perseverance that very nicely concludes before the goal is reached.

Gay’s illustrations are delightful.  Done in mixed media, they have a wonderful texture to them that is used to great effect to be the underground portion of the illustrations.  Complete with rough tears, the paper really captures the grit of the dirt.  Gay has also filled the dirt with small touches: worms, carrots, missing socks, leaves, and rocks.  It is a pleasure to pore over the illustrations to find the “treasures” underground.

A charming story that will inspire readers to follow their heart no matter what other say, this book is appropriate for ages 3-6.

Reviewed from library copy.