Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Runaway Dinner by Allan Ahlberg, illustrated by Bruce Ingman

This is one of those odd stories that, for reasons it's difficult to explain, strikes a chord with the reader. On the surface, it's not something that would work in storytime, or that I would personally even like. It's fairly text-heavy, the story is nonsensical in an almost adult way, the text has an odd cadence, but...somehow it really works for me.

Banjo is sitting down to eat his regular dinner in his regular chair at the regular time, when suddenly, something new happens! His dinner jumps right off his plate and runs out the door. As he chases down his food and furniture, we each different item has their own adventures and we learn their names. Eventually, Banjo catches up with Melvin the sausage - is it the end of Melvin? A funny surprise ending will make you giggle and promises that dinner will live to run away another day.

The text has an unique lilt to it. Once you get into the pattern, it's fun to read aloud. For example, "So that's it, the absolute truth, the complete picture--see? Here they are, the whole lot of them, not forgetting Mildred the cat and Mr. and Mrs., and Bruce, the next-door neighbor's dog--nearly did forget him, though he was chasing Mildred, actually--all racing down the road."

When I read this aloud in storytime, sometimes I do shorten it a little, especially with younger kids who get restless easily. However, I find that if I read it very fast in a rollicking voice, emphasizing the asides, the kids will stay spellbound throughout the whole story, giggling over the silly food, even if they don't completely grasp the more subtle adult humor in parts.

The mixed media illustrations feel as though they were sort of dabbed in. This is one of those books where the pictures are very much secondary to the text of the story itself. Banjo and the various dinner characters don't really stand out, but the random scattering of items across the open backgrounds of the park and streets fits the oddball nature of the story.

Verdict: I probably wouldn't have purchased this on my own, but it was a serendipitous discovery in my collection, especially when I found that it worked so well in storytime and how much I personally liked it. It appears to be out of stock, but there is still a paperback version available. Try it and see if it grabs you and your audience!

ISBN: 0763631426; Published 2006 by Candlewick; Purchased for the library


Anamaria (bookstogether) said...

I like The Runaway Dinner, but I LOVE Ahlberg and Ingman's follow-up to it, The Pencil (or maybe The Pencil was first?). Offbeat and funny.

Jennifer said...

I went to record my review (I load all my blog reviews on LT) and realized I'd reviewed it before! Apparently it really resonates with me. I could never get into The Pencil though.