pencilI’ve recently discovered Allan Ahlberg, which is so bizarre since he’s such a famous figure in UK children’s lit. But every once in a while I’m reminded that no matter how many authors I read, there are always more waiting to be discovered. He and his wife Janet wrote countless books together before she passed away in 1994, and Mr. Ahlberg is still writing. In the past few years he’s done 3 books with illustrator Bruce Ingman, and I absolutely love them.

The Pencil is their most recent collaboration, and it’s a wonderfully whimsical story of a pencil that draws itself some friends (and a paintbrush, for color). All of their collaborations have this great play with time and space, and this one is no exception. It’s delightful.

previouslyI think Previously is my favorite of Ahlberg and Ingman’s collaborations. It begins with well-known storybook characters and tells us what each one was doing “previously.”  (EX: “Jack was running like mad in the dark woods with a hen under his arm. Previously, he had stolen the hen and climbed down a beanstalk.”) And then we learn what Jack did previous to that, and on and on while more characters we know are drawn into the story. The result is wickedly funny. I’m planning a fairy tale unit with my second graders this spring, and I’ll be working this in with some retellings and fractured fairy tales.

runawaydinnerThe Runaway Dinner follows the same zany tradition as the other two books (and this one actually came first). Young Banjo (the same boy drawn in The Pencil) sits down to eat a sausage named Melvin. Melvin runs off the table and out the door, and the vegetables, silverware, plates, table, and chairs all follow him right out the door. Followed by Banjo. Everything has a name, which gives great opportunities for alliteration. This is a very fun story with very British humor.