The Runaway Dinner
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The Runaway Dinner

4.7 4
by Allan Ahlberg, Bruce Ingman

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Talk about fast food! A hilarious, high-speed tale from the inimitable Allan Ahlberg — catch it if you can!

What happens if someone's dinner decides that, well, it doesn't want to be eaten? For a hungry little boy named Banjo and a savory sausage named Melvin, it's a plight that can only result in a breathless escape — and what a chase it is! Off


Talk about fast food! A hilarious, high-speed tale from the inimitable Allan Ahlberg — catch it if you can!

What happens if someone's dinner decides that, well, it doesn't want to be eaten? For a hungry little boy named Banjo and a savory sausage named Melvin, it's a plight that can only result in a breathless escape — and what a chase it is! Off speeds the sturdy sausage — leading fork, knife, and plate, chair and table, a handful of fries with various French names, and three fat little peas — out the door, down the street, and around the park, with poor Banjo taking up the rear. Will the famished boy ever catch them? And what (gulp) happens to Melvin if he does? Allan Ahlberg is in his element with this fast and funny tale, while Bruce Ingman's kid-friendly illustrations add visual comedy to the chase.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz
Banjo Cannon is an ordinary sort of boy who happens to have a sausage for his dinner every day, all year long, until.... One day a particular sausage named Melvin jumps off the plate and runs away, followed by Banjo's fork, knife, plate, table, chair, and finally a hungry Banjo. And from the plate, running along, follow peas, carrots, and fries. In Ahlberg's absurd, chummily colloquial fantasy text, even the vegetables have names, with the fries being French, "of course." As they all run through town, followed also by Mr. And Mrs. Cannon, Mildred the cat, and Bruce the neighbor's dog, they have a series of happy and disastrous adventures. Only Melvin is left, slowing down, caught and almost eaten by Banjo. But of course his mother will not let him eat anything that has been on the ground. So there is a stroll back home, collecting characters along the way, until Banjo can finally get to eat his usual plum pie dessert named Joyce...or can he? The nonsense of the text is appropriately accompanied by rather childlike acrylic illustrations. Ingman mixes vignettes with large, more fully developed scenes, frequently leaving drawings unpainted for a surreal touch. The hurrying characters, from Banjo on down to the line of fries and peas, all have personalities to add to the zany fun.
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 3-When Banjo Cannon sits down to dinner, his sausage (named Melvin) jumps off the plate and runs away. The kitchen furniture, cutlery, peas, French fries, carrots, the famished boy, and his parents follow out the door in "Gingerbread Man" fashion. The chase continues down the street and through a park where a duck eats Paul the pea, two fries sail away in a toy boat, and a picnicking family grabs the fork and knife. Just when Banjo catches up with Melvin, his mom yells, "Don't eat that, it's been on the ground!" The surreal adventures are relayed in a droll, conversational style with casual asides ("Now here's the exciting part, the unbelievable part-though it is all true"). Ingman's acrylic illustrations, done in muted tones, combine detailed panoramic scenes and fully fleshed-out characters with pen-and-ink outline sketches. The naive drawings of the stick-legged sausage and his fellow runaways will elicit giggles. This fast-paced yarn is full of kooky charm.-Linda Ludke, London Public Library, Ontario, Canada Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Just as a boy named Banjo is about to eat dinner, his sausage, Melvin, jumps up and runs off, accompanied by the dish, fork, knife, carrots (all girls named Caroline, Clara, etc.), peas (all boys named Peter, Percival and Paul) and so on. With a wacky, whimsical narrative that takes as many detours as its participants, Ahlberg's writing is stylistically accomplished and decidedly British. So, why Americanize the story with French fries and baseball instead of chips and cricket? Ingman's childlike paintings incorporating ink sketches are expressively and colorfully detailed with personified objects, chronicling the energetic journey from kitchen table to city sidewalk to park pathway and back. Various calamities ensue (a pigeon eats Percival the pea and a duck eats Paul, while the plate becomes a Frisbee), before Banjo sits down to a plum pie for his replacement dinner. More sophisticated in structure than the classic tales and verses that inspired it, this madcap riff is for primary-grade readers-and their clever parents. (Picture book. 5-8)

Product Details

Candlewick Press
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
10.80(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.30(d)
AD910L (what's this?)
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

Allan Ahlberg is one of he most acclaimed and successful authors of children's books. He is the author of THE SNAIL HOUSE, illustrated by Gillian Tyler; THE CAT WHO GOT CARRIED AWAY and THE CHILDREN WHO SMELLED A RAT, both illustrated by Katharine McEwen; HALF A PIG, illustrated by his daughter, Jessica Ahlberg; and THE SHOPPING EXPEDITION, illustrated by Andre Amstutz. Allan Ahlberg lives in Bath, England.

Bruce Ingman is the award-winning children's book illlustrator of BOING!, written by Sean Taylor, and the author-illustrator of BAD NEWS! I'M IN CHARGE! Bruce Ingman lives in London.

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4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book to my 2 and 4 year-old and they love it and I don't mind reading it often. It is funny, smart and the illustrations are interesting and fun. All around a great book.
H-and-Gs-Mom More than 1 year ago
Loved this book, and best of all my two boys really loved it, very cute. It's hard to find silly books that are well written that can keep a boy's attention. Enough action for my 7 year old twin boys to keep them interested and giggling throughout the entire book. There are so many poorly written children's books out there it is always nice to find one that is funny, keeps their attention and is well written. Cute characters, we love to count out the peas and try to figure out where they all have gone by the end of the story. Also try our favorite Ahlberg book The Pencil!
Guest More than 1 year ago
A great read for all ages.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a funny, action packed story about a boy and his dinner. My daughter loves it and I don't mind reading it over and over. The illustrations are pretty simple but very expressive.