One night, before clicking the bedside lamp into dark, I read Sam and Dave Dig a Hole written by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen. Then I read it out loud to the pets. Because I realized the dog was splayed on the floor and the cat curled on the bed both with their eyes closed — having to imagine the illustrations — I read just the words to myself. Because that made me curious I then read just the pictures.
The next night I read about Sam and Dave again. I checked that Sam and Dave were illustrated as Sam and Dave correctly. Sam wears a blue cap and Dave wears red in every picture where it’s possible to identify the boys based on the text. That’s important because it shows thoughtful intention.
“Why diamonds?” I wanted to know. Would two boys really care about a giant diamond? Was it intentional, or is it merely a universal symbol to represent a spectacular something? Diamonds don’t mean anything spectacular to me, but I get the symbolism. And then, there’s the dog bone. How does that fit with the meaning?
Each night and each time what the story meant differed.
In the morning, sitting in a rocking chair without rocking, I read about Sam and Dave again to see if their journey to something spectacular changed. It did. Or, which journey I thought them most likely to be on changed.
Sometimes, all I thought was that Dave is kind of bossy and Sam is kind of a pushover. But, then again, they’re siblings (presumably) and understanding a family dynamic in one instance of one day isn’t realistic.
During one of these readings I realized that I was over-analyzing a short story. Which made me wonder — if kids books were called short stories would they receive greater respect? Not all kids books inspire this much thought. Neither do all short stories. According to the article, “Children’s books are never just for children,” published in The Guardian, my reading and re-reading of this kids book is exactly what kids books are for. Consequently, Sam and Dave, may be better written than a book (or short story) for adults.
Sam and Dave eat animal cookies and drink chocolate milk while digging for their something spectacular. It’s exactly the kind of snack I’d think of packing. Except, I’m more likely to climb a tree than to dig a hole.
After reading the book several times there was a Monday morning at work when a colleague said “Hey! How are you doing?”
“Oh, all right,” I responded.
“Just all right? What would make life better?” My coworker said.
“Ohh…more ice cream sundaes.”
“I had a chocolate milkshake for breakfast because we had too much milk at home,” he nodded in agreement.
“Hey — I get to have a chocolate milkshake when I get home!” It was this chocolate and porter milkshake. I’d bought a chocolate porter just for this milkshake. I’d also bought animal cookies, but realized at home they were in fact teddy bear cookies.
“Better day already,” he ended.
Just maybe, he might have asked “what would make the day spectacular.” Probably not, but probably he didn’t say “better,” choosing an exuberant expression of excitement instead — he’s kind of peppy.