Allan Ahlberg, , illus. by Raymond Briggs. . FSG, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-374-30092-0

Ahlberg (The Jolly Postman) and Briggs (The Snowman) create a dialogue of words and images in these tales of a clumsy Englishman—or, rather, an overgrown English boy. In Chapter One, Bert wakes up: "Meet Bert. This is him. Say hallo to Bert." The character extends a voice-bubble "Hallo!" His beaming smile, button eyes and round head suggest Briggs's Snowman reborn as a rugby player. Next, the text addresses a diminutive, dowdy Mrs. Bert and Baby Bert, who is "fast asleep. Shh! Turn the page... quietly." Inevitably, flipping the page awakens the baby, who explodes into red-faced howling. Bert himself is an infantile fellow, with an awkward body, endearing curiosity and holes in his droopy knit socks. When he tries to dress himself, he tumbles out the door ("He ends up in Scotland"); when he meets a giant sausage, he panics, unaware that it's a costumed vendor. Ahlberg's artful narrative comments on and chats with the slapsticky, colored-pencil images. Briggs's visual sequences communicate the hero's actions eloquently and add atmospheric touches (e.g., a striped tail protrudes from a margin, but readers never see the whole cat), and he alters the pacing by moving fluidly from spreads to comic strip–style panels. Both author and illustrator invite audience conversation with their amiable hero. Ages 3-6. (Aug.)