Neil Gaiman – Fortunately, the Milk (Book Review)

Fortunately, the Milk cover

Neil Gaiman – Fortunately, the Milk

2013 is apparently Neil Gaiman’s year of short books. In addition to the children’s book Chu’s Day and adult book The Ocean at the End of the Lane, he also published the young reader’s novel Fortunately, the Milk. It’s a light, farcical story without the depth or elaborate structure that Gaiman often puts into his books. However, like most Gaiman novels, it’s exactly the length and style that it’s supposed to be, without regard for industry expectations.

Fortunately is the story of a father who goes off to the store to pick up milk for his children’s breakfast, and takes longer than expected to return. The kids accuse him of absent-mindedly talking to neighbors for too long, but he responds with a story of the time-and-space-spanning adventure he got sucked into. Fortunately, he managed to keep the milk safe every step of the way, and even saved the day before returning home with his shopping mission accomplished.

It’s a fast-moving romp, with scenes and characters changing constantly. It’s supposed to be an improvised shaggy dog tale, and the plot structure is pretty loose. The situations are funny, though. For adults, this captures the feel of a silly parent playing around with jokes that go just above their children’s heads. For kids, these ideas are just unusual enough to capture the imagination and become inside jokes or fodder for new stories.

It’s also filled with whimsical illustrations by Skottie Young. They have the same silly, sketchy feeling that the writing does, and it’s hard for me to imagine this book without his contribution. (It seems like Gaiman must have planned this with Young in mind. But since the British edition of this has a different artist, apparently that’s not true. I’m very curious to hear how the art works in that book.) The font of the book also changes to bold, hand-drawn lettering at certain points to emphasize action. That helps tie everything together, actually. Though this is nothing like the classic comic book mix of text and pictures, the two combine into one reading experience.

Yes, Fortunately, the Milk is a short book. (Thanks to those illustrations taking up space, it takes maybe a half hour for an adult to read.) But it was very fun for me, and it’s easy to imagine this being thrilling for the right child. It’s not a classic book, or even Gaiman’s best of the year, but it’s one I can recommend strongly.

Grade: B+

 
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    • blake
    • January 24th, 2014

    this is an outstanding book

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