Fragmentary autobiography too, of a horse-drawn but unsteady world, a boyhood of new houses, new towns, abiding shyness. Tipped in are grandmother's purple rages and compensatory loose rein; elaborate party preparations (only the ice cream measured up) and a visit to Bruges busy in snow and ice; learning to swim (or sink) at the end of a fishing pole; gay-blade uncles back from East Asia and, infrequently, his pragmatic, adaptable father too. ""Alas. poor man, the only person he could not get on with was his wife"" -- and Ned, who pronounces his pretty, cultivated mother probably ""sexually cold,"" suffered from being drawn into one of their quarrels. Worst for a child ""born to be teased and bullied"" was school: terror induced apathy in the classroom and flight outside (once he was caught, his ""poor little penis"" burned). If the young Ardizzone was no indomitable Little Tim, neither does he whimper: there were good times especially on the Ipswich docks where the books had their adventure-tinged beginning. Other images endured -- a man silently, ferociously strangling a woman (the scoutmaster: ""Eyes front, boys""); two drunken hoydens pulling hair, ripping clothes -- and increasingly Ned ""took refuge in painting and drawing."" Only, however, after several years of clerking at the China and Japan Trading Company and sampling Bohemian London would a providential gift From his father turn him to full-time professional art. Enhancing the kaleidoscopic recollections on almost every page are the author-artist's spirited drawings and, given the staying power of his style, some young people will welcome the confidences of Little Tim's progenitor -- confidences not so different from the first-personalizations currently dominating fiction. ""I was a conformist. I tried to do the right thing but failed."" Expendable, certainly (and expensive), nonetheless engaging.