Book Review: Fortunately, The Milk…
By Aruna Bewtra
Sometimes everyone likes a fun, light-hearted story for kids, just like Neil Gaiman’s Fortunately, The Milk…. Neil Gaiman is an immensely successful adult fantasy writer who occasionally writes children’s fantasy, as well. I have found some of his other children’s books a bit heavy and dark for youngsters, so when I saw the cheerful cover art of Fortunately, The Milk… in an airport, I thought I might give it a go. It turned out to be perfect airplane material: funny, imaginative, and easy to pick up and put down.
In the story, Mum has to go on a business trip and Dad is left in charge of the kids. Unfortunately, they are out of milk. So Dad pops out to the corner shop to fetch some milk, and the children wait, and wait, and wait. The boy guesses that Dad met some friends at the shop and lost track of time chatting with them. When Dad returns they ask him why he was late and that is when the story begins. Dad spins a wild, raucous tale about spaceships, pirates, a professorial Stegosaurus riding a hot air balloon, volcanoes, vampires, and Inter-Galactic Space Police Dinosaurs. Throughout the adventures, the milk helps Dad to save the day and return home safely.
The children eventually do pick up on the fact that Dad is spinning a tale for them, but are so caught up in the story that they don’t want it to end. And part of the fun for any parent reading this book aloud to their child will be the moment their child realizes the story is purely made up. The real beauty of this story for kids, however, lies in its print and illustrations (done by Chris Riddell, a very successful illustrator and cartoonist). The print is very large, so beginning readers can follow along or read by themselves. And the illustrations are funny, whimsical, and one-to-a-page, which helps children see this fantastical tale come to life.
There is minimal character development, and almost no plot as the entire story is a sort of stream of imagination (and then pirates swoop in!). However, not all books have to be educational. There is quite a bit of adventure, however, all of it is of a cartoonish sort and quickly resolved with a new flight of fancy.
If you have an imaginative adventurer in your house and are looking for a fun, light-hearted story for kids, try this book. It would be perfect to be read aloud to a 6- to 8-year-old, and 9- to 12-year-olds could handle it on their own.