The three-time Caldecott medalist tells the tale of two ants who decide to leave the safety of the others to venture into a danger-laden kitchen.
In this new book by Van Allsburg, twice a winner of the Caldecott Medal, the theme of an outsider's point-of-view (touched upon most recently in his The Stranger ) is expanded. Accustomed to the orderly and uneventful life in the ant hole, all the ants enter the bizarre world of a kitchen in the search for sugar crystals for the queen. Two greedy ants stay behind in the sugar bowl, eating their fill and then falling asleep. Their slumbers end when a giant scoop drops them into a sea of boiling brown coffee. Further mishaps include a heated stay in the toaster, a hazardous swirl in the garbage disposal and a zap in an electrical outlet. When the ant troops return, the two bad ants gladly rejoin their friends and head for the safety of home. In this work, the hazards of nonconformity are clear. The narration has the feel of early newsreels where the broadcaster described unknown phenomena in clipped, clinical language: ``A strange force passed through the wet ants. They were stunned senseless and blown out of the holes like bullets from a gun.'' The resilient ants and the eerie landscapes are portrayed in strong black-and-white images, enriched by deep brown, purple, slate, gold and steely blue colors; Van Allsburg, playing with perspective, creates marvelous contrasts and images. But although Two Bad Ants is visually different from its predecessors, it shares the same strong style, dazzling artwork and whimsy that characterizes all of the artist's work. Ages 3-8. (Oct.)