If the picture book world has celebrities, Mac Barnett (author of Oh No!) and Jon Klassen (author-illustrator of I Want My Hat Back) are two of the biggest. So when the two of them team up, it’s kind of a big deal. The last time it happened, the result was Extra Yarn, which received a Caldecott Honor, among many other accolades. Now the two have paired up again with Sam and Dave Dig a Hole, another wryly subtle, unexpectedly funny picture book about two brothers in search of something extraordinary.
The book’s opening spread shows the two boys (and their dog), serious expressions on their faces, setting out to the yard with shovels on their shoulders. They decide to dig a hole, and their mission, as Dave says, is not to stop “until we find something spectacular.” The boys get down to business immediately, and as they dig deeper and deeper (and get dirtier and dirtier), readers will delight in spotting the spectacular items that lie just outside their shovels’ reach.
Barnett’s deadpan text and Klassen’s equally restrained illustrations (the dog’s facial expressions alone are priceless) combine to create a picture book rich in dramatic irony and understated hilarity. The limited color palette (heavy on the earth tones, of course), imaginative text and surprising ending combine to create a collaboration that is itself nothing short of spectacular.