cover image It Was a Dark and Stormy Night

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night

Allan Ahlberg. Viking Books, $13.99 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-670-85159-1

Meticulously meshing words and pictures, the Ahlbergs ( The Jolly Postman ) present an unusually witty yarn-within-a-yarn. Dozing while tending his family's goats, eight-year-old Antonio is kidnapped by a band of brigands and their bored chief, who demands that the boy tell a story to pass the time during, yes, a dark and stormy night. A rather rude bunch, the rogues keep interrupting Antonio (whose tale features these very brigands), heavily editing his narrative (``No crocodiles or sharks--no jaws!''; ``No Brussels sprouts!''). With a good-natured ``Right-o!,'' the lad repeatedly starts over. Eventually Antonio tells of a ``Thingy'' lurking in a castle moat who is about to do in the chief and his cronies. As this distresses them greatly, the boy wisely switches his plot to ``something pleasant'': a lavish banquet followed by a treasure hunt. But when Antonio's tale has the chief demanding all of the booty, the fictional brigands protest loudly--much to the chagrin of the real brigands, who fear their master's wrath. Mayhem ensues, leading to a very clever finale. As always, Janet Ahlberg's delightfully detailed art offers youngsters lots to look at--and to laugh at. Ages 7-10. (Feb.)