As I’ve stated before, books belong to their readers, and no matter how old you are, there is always something that can be learned from children’s picture books. It’s also true that some books, as simple as they may seem, can hold deep, underlying meanings that will stay with the readers for years to come. And there may be no better example of this than Jon Klassen and Mac Barnett’s latest work, Sam and Dave Dig a Hole, which may hold a meaning deeper than any hole Sam or Dave could fathom.
This is the story of two guys, Sam and Dave, who, along with their unnamed dog companion, set out to, guess what, dig a hole. They go out into their front yard, shovels in hand, saying that they are not going to stop digging until they find something spectacular. They start out, Minecraft style, digging straight down, but all they seem to find is dirt, and after awhile, they decide to start digging sideways. However, unbeknownst to Sam and Dave, but, um, known to the reader, Sam and Dave were on the verge of uncovering a giant diamond right before they changed directions.
This proceeds to happen over and over again. Right when they are about to dig up something great, spectacular even, they change course and miss it altogether.
This keeps happening until they literally dig through the bottom of the earth and fall and fall and fall until they land back in what seems to be their front yard. Sam and Dave look around, shrug, claim that that was pretty spectacular, and go inside for chocolate milk and animal crackers. However, and this is where things get trippy, the close reader will notice that this isn’t actually Sam and Dave’s original front yard. The apple tree has been replaced with a pear tree, the cat’s collar has changed colors, the plant on the porch is different, and oh, there isn’t a giant, underground tunnel to the bottom of the earth in the front yard.
There are so many questions that demand answers. Where are these guys? How did Sam and Dave get so good at digging holes? What is the dog’s name? Is this entire book a metaphor for the frailties of the so-called American Dream? I think it might be. Think about it: Two regular guys set out to do something spectacular. They work hard, but when there is no immediate gratification, they change direction and ultimately never reach any goals because they keep changing what they want to do. As an American college student, I submit to you that that sounds exactly like an American college student. Especially when you realize that this giant hole they are digging themselves into is just a physical representation of the student debt most of us are completely buried in. Then, when Sam and Dave have seemingly done everything they can do, they end up in a place only slightly different from where they began. Their hometown, maybe? Living in a home right down the road from where they grew up, maybe?
Like anything else Jon Klassen touches, this book is fantastic. Yet again, he has produced a book that, in less than one hundred words, has more meaning than most 50,000 word novels. This would be a great book to read to your kids as you tuck them into bed when they are little and then again when they come home from college claiming that they are sick of studying biology and want to swap to interior design. However, it may not be the best book to read to your spouse when he or she is showing signs of a life crisis.