Everyone knows about ants. They invade your picnic lunch, wind their way into flowerbeds and string into the most unlikely places where food is available. We know about ant farms and how the industrious little creatures tote heavy loads back to their ant colonies.

"Two Bad Ants" begins when a scouting ant returns with a remarkable sparkling crystal, which the ant queen eats with delight. "Nothing could make her happier than to have more, much more."Since her happiness makes the ant home a happy place, the ants go in search of the delectable food.

The path leads them through forests, to a mountain and into a place where smells of the outside world are left behind. "From the top of the wall they looked below to a sea of crystals. . . ."

The ants have found the sugar bowl, and each with a crystal in tow starts the journey home.

But two little ants see the wisdom of living in the lap of luxury! "Why go back? . . . We can stay here and eat this tasty treasure every day, forever. . . ."

The two foolish ants find themselves in the toaster, disposal and ultimately back with their friends and are happy to carry a crystal at a time home again.

What an adventure! And what a visual feast Chris Van Allsburg has given us to share that excitement. Told from an ant's eye view, this is a deliciously frightening story. The size of the spoon and the nostrils of the morning coffee (cocoa?) drinker make the size relationships a pleasure to compare.

Children will adore the venture, and while some of this award-winning artist's other books, "Z Was Zapped," "The Stranger," "Ben's Dream" and "The Mysteries of Harris Burdick," may have been perplexing to the youngest reader, "Two Bad Ants" will never be. They will be able to look at this, recall "Polar Express" and find a story that can be told over and over again . . . with much pleasure.

Underneath "Two Bad Ants" is the aesthetic genius that Van Allsburg readers have learned to appreciate in his other eight picture books, two of which received the Caldecott Award for the best illustrated book of the year. The art was inspired by old steel engravings. Over the pen and ink drawings from an ant's viewpoint is casein-based paint that creates the tones and mood that one would see from the inside of a sugar bowl, swimming in dark liquid or being flushed down the drain.

Together, art and text give everything a picture book should provide: a moving storyline, art that complements the text and something that will urge the reader to come back again and again.