cover image The Shopping Expedition

The Shopping Expedition

Allan Ahlberg. Candlewick Press (MA), $16.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-7636-2586-3

What if a routine trip to the store turned into a peril-fraught adventure-a supreme test of endurance, ingenuity, and courage? Now, that would be something to tell Dad. At first, the shopping party-which consists of the girl narrator, her baby brother, her mother and a hound named ""Wilf the Wonderdog"" (Dad remains at home doing chores)-confront merely bothersome setbacks. ""The car broke down, but we kept going. The rain came down, but we kept going."" But a turn of the page plunges readers into a wild and woolly alternative universe, where the weather is extreme (there's a blizzard, much to the delight of Wilf, who taps into his inner St. Bernard), the terrain shifts from alpine to desert to jungle in blinks of the eye, and other threats include ""cheeky monkeys."" Ahlberg gives his text the authentic ring of a young storyteller determined to keep an audience in her thrall; the girl can't resist loading up her story with incredible events, but she also senses that gilding the lily will stretch even parental credulity. Amstutz's mural-like full-bleed acrylics explode in a colorful, comic hodgepodge of geographic archetypes and heroic deeds-it's a view of the world that a precocious child would knit together from storybooks, cartoons and educational television, and will likely thrill youngsters. Ages 3-6.