Two children’s book creators whose books have, collectively, spent 115 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, have teamed up for a second time on a picture book, due from Candlewick October 14. Mac Barnett (co-author of Battle Bunny) and Caldecott Medalist Jon Klassen (This Is Not My Hat), are collaborating on Sam and Dave Dig a Hole, which centers on two boys who take very different approaches to the title activity. Liz Bicknell, Candlewick editorial director and associate publisher, acquired world rights to the picture book from Steven Malk of Writers House. Bicknell will edit the book, which art director Ann Stott will design. Barnett and Klassen previously worked together on 2012’s Extra Yarn (HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray), a Caldecott Honor book and a Boston Globe-Horn Book Award winner.
Sam and Dave Dig a Hole was conceived five years ago over breakfast at an L.A. diner, when Barnett and Klassen, close friends for many years, began batting around picture-book ideas. “As we talked, the idea of a kid digging a hole came up.” Barnett recalled. “We talked about how we both had done the classic kid thing – dug holes in our backyards – but we realized our digging was very different. I was always convinced I’d find bandits’ treasure when I dug. Jon kind of just dug and dug and quietly stared at the hole. He had very low expectations!”
That morning, the pair created the first rough of the book on a diner napkin; then, Barnett wrote an initial draft of the story, speaking frequently with Klassen. “We’ve both been a big part of this book from the start,” said Barnett, whose President Taft Is Stuck in the Bath, illustrated by Chris Van Dusen, will be released by Candlewick in March. “Given the influence each of us had on the other during the process of making Sam and Dave Dig a Hole, I’d say this was an especially close collaborative experience.”
Bicknell originally read the text in 2011, knowing that Barnett’s intention was to have Klassen illustrate the book. “What I really liked about the text was that its deadpan nature left it open to huge amounts of interesting visuals,” she said. “And because in some ways Mac and Jon are Sam and Dave, there’s great theatrical comedy going on between the duo in the book. Most of the story is dialogue, and the art shows what Sam and Dave are missing. They don’t see the fabulous treasure that’s there, and there’s a wonderful contrast between the text and art. It leaves readers in a position of knowing what the characters don’t, which I love in a picture book.”
Marketing and publicity plans are still being finalized, but Bicknell confirmed that a national tour for the author-illustrator duo is in the works.