cover image The Runaway Dinner

The Runaway Dinner

Allan Ahlberg, , illus. by Bruce Ingman. . Candlewick, $15.99 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-7636-3142-0

With a plot timed faster than fast food and illustrations that keep pace, this picture book about a dinner that literally runs away is a comic treat. Like a cowboy spinning a fireside tall tale as if it were true, Ahlberg's (The Jolly Postman ) unseen narrator sprinkles the story with plenty of droll asides. Just as the boy hero, Banjo, is about to cut into his supper, "the sausage—Melvin, his name was—/ jumped, yes, jumped, right up off the plate.../ and ran away." Melvin the sausage leads a procession of sorts: "the fork ran after the sausage,/ the knife ran after the fork," followed by the boy's plate, table and chair, as well as his side dishes, all of which have individual names except for the French fries (because "well, there really were too many to name all of them"). Ingman (Boing! ) adds plenty of slapstick humor to this great chase. The salt and ketchup containers ride atop the table waving to the crowd as if they were in a parade, and a boiled egg from a nearby picnic looks on in horror as Banjo gains on the sausage. Playful use of type size and white space speeds up and slows down the action accordingly. Finally, Banjo sits down to enjoy his dessert—a plum pie ("named Joyce on this particular occasion"), who jumps up and, well,... this sure-to-be a runaway favorite begins again. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)