cover image The Better Brown Stories

The Better Brown Stories

Allan Ahlberg. Viking Children's Books, $14.99 (112pp) ISBN 978-0-670-85894-1

Seated around the breakfast table one May morning, the Brown family makes a blissful portrait indeed. Or do they? Suddenly Brian, Betsy and their parents let loose a torrent of complaints about their seemingly ideal but ultimately boring lives, and Mrs. Brown asks, ""Who writes this rubbish?"" After determining that The Writer is responsible, they troop to his house, where the baffled fellow declares, ""This is a bombshell.... No one's ever complained before."" But he promises ""a new story,"" and tries his best to please, making comic chaos out of the Browns' lives and shattering the tranquility of their English seaside village. In his Pirandello-like framework, Ahlberg has the Browns conferring with The Writer between-and sometimes during-each fanciful incident, creating a very clever, ongoing dialogue. Inventive borrowings from classic and contemporary literature add further dimension to this whimsical book. Wegner's line art, embellished with dialogue balloons and captions, offers a wry interpretation of the sometimes preposterous goings-on. Ages 8-12. (Feb.)