Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Runaway Dinner by Allan Ahlberg, illustrated by Bruce Ingram

I have a cold so I am pulling out some of my favorite storytime books as significant portions of my brain are no longer functioning.

I am not, in general, a fan of Ahlberg's work. Put away the pitchforks, please! We are all entitled to our own opinion! It just never grabbed me and I've felt generally unenthusiastic about the various illustrators he's teamed up with.

But when I discovered this book on our library shelves several years ago, I fell in love with it. It's now one of my favorite stories, although it doesn't always work well in storytime.

Banjo, a little boy, sits down to eat his dinner. But the dinner, a nice sausage, has other ideas and runs away. Soon there's a gingerbread-boy-parade of food, furniture, cutlery, and people running through the city. One by one things drop out of the race; the carrots escape, the peas are eaten, the chair gets sat on, the plate becomes a frisbee, until finally Banjo catches the sausage and...well, you'll have to read the story to find out Melvin's fate.

Ingram's illustrations depend on broad swatches of color, against which the food and utensils trot briskly on spindly legs. Background people and details are sketched in outline, focusing the story on the various animated objects as they have their adventures.

The real draw for this story is Ahlberg's text. He perfectly creates a flowing rhythm that draws the listener and reader through the story. Repetition and exclamation blend smoothly together creating a sing-song poetry of the quirky story. "Well, he was a little boy, this boy, lived in a house, slept in a bed, wore all the usual sorts of clothes, socks and scarves and such."

This story is a little long for the average storytime, but it has that special quality that catches children's interest and holds it throughout a longer tale. I've found it works best if you read it quickly in a good storytelling voice. Expression depends on the audience; younger kids need guidance to catch the jokes, while you can read it completely deadpan to older, say 4s and 5s, and get howls of laughter.

Verdict: This is one of my personal and storytime favorites and if your library doesn't own it I highly recommend it.

ISBN: 076361426; Published August 2006 by Candlewick; Reviewed from my personal copy; Purchased for the library; Purchased for my personal library


Charlotte said...

My favorites of Ahlberg's are his earlier ones, illustrated by his wife. I'm not sure how many of those ended up here in the US. In particular I love Bye Bye Baby, and Cops and Robbers--both supurb read alouds!

Medea said...

Hope your cold is better!

I have a love of rosy cheeked protagonists, so this is up my alley. Will see if I can get this here.