Monday, August 4, 2008

The Runaway Dinner

Ahlberg, Allan. 2006. (First paperback edition, 2008). The Runaway Dinner. Illustrated by Bruce Ingman.

If you like weird picture books, then Allan Ahlberg is the author for you. That's not to say that his books are bad weird. Or even that they are good weird. Picture books are always subjective. A reader can love the text but not the pictures. Or a reader can love the pictures but not the text. Or a reader can love both the text and pictures. Or hate both the text and pictures. Or perhaps love most of the book, but have a few quibbles with an element or two, etc. That's how it goes with most picture books. Allan Ahlberg's picture books create a very odd, very weird, slightly warped (not offensively warped) reality. So whether you love or hate The Runaway Dinner depends on who you are, what sort of sense of humor you have, etc.

In The Runaway Dinner, the readers meet a young boy, Banjo, and his runaway dinner. Melvin, the sausage, starts this exhausting runaway adventure. Here's how it begins,

"There was once a boy. Banjo, his name was, yes, Banjo Cannon. Well, he was a little boy, this boy, lived in a house, slept in a bed, wore all the usual sorts of clothes, socks and scarves and such, loved his cat, named Mildred, and his mom and dad, named Mr. and Mrs. and every day, summer or winter, rain or shine, had a sausage for his dinner..."

Skipping ahead a bit, we see that, "Now here's the exciting part, the unbelievable part--though it is all true." The sausage, the plate, the knife, the fork, the table, the chair, the peas, the fries, the carrots, the boy, the cat, the parents, the neighbor's dog, etc. they all join in this runaway chase. Some are running to run away, and some are running to chase, to try to catch what's running away. They are all given names. And the chase is a long one, an exhausting one.

And I won't spoil it for you if you haven't read it. It's very weird, as I said, and it's got a warped slightly unusual humor about it.


  1. Becky, I am always looking for a good Kindergarten retelling sequence book. YES or NO? What do you think before I order from Amazon???? Will kinder teachers freak out?

  2. I wouldn't classify this one as a retelling sequence book. If you mean cumulative text that builds and repeats...a good (and newish) example of that would be The Apple Pie That Papa Baked by Lauren Thompson. This one obviously is a new twist on the traditional "runaway dinner" folk tale scheme (Gingerbread Man, Runaway Pancake, etc.) But in an offhand way. It reminds me, in a way, of Jon Scieszka. But only in a way.

  3. Thank you for the response. I find that the kinders need obvious sequence. I don't mean first second third transition words, but still obvious. I will check out the other text for retell and sequence and save The Runaway Dinner for a twist on The Gingerbread Man

  4. Well, at the very least, it has an interesting title!