Thursday, June 9, 2016

Sam & Dave Dig a Hole  

By Mac Barnett               
Illlustrated by Jon Klassen
Published date: 2014

Awards: 2014 Caldecott Honor, Winner of the E.B. White Read-Aloud Award, Winner of the Irma Black Award, Winner of the Wanda Gág Read Aloud Book Award,  A New York Times Best Seller,  A New York Times Notable Book, A Washington Post Best Children's Book of 2014, A PBS Best Picture Book of 2014,  A Guardian Best Book of 2014, A Horn Book Fanfare Best Book of 2014,  A Kirkus Best Book of 2014,  A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2014, A Globe & Mail 100 Best Books of 2014 Selection,  A Huffington Post Best Picture Book of 2014, A BuzzFeed Best Picture Book of 2014, An Association for Library Service to Children Notables Selection,  A Toronto Public Library First & Best Book of 2014, A Reading Today Best Picture Book of 2014, A Junior Library Guild Selection

You’ll notice that this book has won awards for both the illustrations and the content. It’s a story that will engage your students immediately through the book’s humor and their own personal association with the main activity in the book—digging a hole. Each of your students who has ever thought about digging that ‘hole to China’ (and who hasn’t?) will immediately connect with Sam & Dave Dig a Hole and the hilarious adventure in which the two boys engage!

The engagement and connection make this a great book to use as mentor text for both writing and reading workshop. In writing workshop, I would use this book as a mentor for the lower grades to show the importance of illustration and how an author/illustrator can put context clues in the story illustrations to help deepen the reader’s understanding and enjoyment.  For older students, I would also emphasize using the illustrations to demonstrate and embed humor in the story. In addition, there is such a subtle, fun, humorous ‘twist’ at the end the story which leaves readers scratching their heads say, “Wait! What just happened?” This  is a difficult craft move for mature writers—but Sam & Dave Dig a Hole is an excellent mentor to demonstrate that subtlety for older writers who are ready.

The text is very simply written and the story is fun, so I would use Sam & Dave Dig a Hole in reading workshop with students working on fluency and at the end of the story— we would definitely work on questioning!

Book Talk
Brothers Sam and Dave decide it is time to dig to discover something ‘spectacular’.

They get their shovels and their dog and they  dig and they dig.They come up empty handed—-but continue in their quest as they are determined to find that spectacular something.  

They stop for a drink of chocolate milk and a bite of animal crackers, but they continue to dig and dig.

At this point, the humor sets in for the readers because of the fun and clever cut-away illustrations. The illustrations reveal that the boys are VERY close to digging up spectacular diamonds—just inches away from their shovels.  But this digging decision or that digging decision always leads them a little bit off course of the jewels!

At this point, the boys are so deep underground and so very tired, they decide to nap. Their dog, however, has just sniffed a bone that is buried underneath the sleeping boys and starts digging.

Some Favorite Lines:
Sam and Dave ran out of chocolate milk. But they kept digging.  They shared the last animal cookie. But they kept digging.  After a while, Sam sat down. “Dave,” he said, “I’m tired. I can’t dig anymore.”  “ I'am tired, too,” said Dave.  “We should take a rest.”

The next few pages is when the REAL mystery begins as the boys are seen falling through the hole/ earth and finally several pages later, landing back home—-but is it really home?  

Readers will have fun comparing the illustrations from the beginning of the story and end of the story and trying to figure out what really did happen!

Suggested Uses As a Mentor Text:
Book Genre: Realistic Fiction
Reading Workshop Strategies: Maintaining Fluency, Monitoring and Correcting, Making Connections, Inferring, Questioning
Writing Workshop Strategies: Narrative Writing, Personal Narrative, Boy Hook, Strong Endings, Small Moment, Grammar (quotations)

Mac Barnett’s website:
Jon Klassen’s website:

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