Neil Gaiman, Aliens, Dinosaurs, and Fortunately, the Milk
Speaking at BEA 2013 back in June, Neil Gaiman told the audience a story about when his son was small. Gaiman had done something fatherly (like tell him to go to bed) and his son informed him that he wished he didn’t have a dad. “I wish I had a…” he paused, trying to decide what one might have instead of a father, and finished, “Goldfish.” Gaiman instantly wrote this down, and the charming story eventually led to his first children’s book, the Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish. But, despite the success of the picture, book, Gaiman confided to the BEA crowd that he has always felt a bit guilty. See, the father in that story doesn’t do much. He reads the paper, and, at one point, he sadly eats a carrot. And yet children have been giving this book to their fathers for birthdays and Father’s Days for years. So, Gaiman decided he would write a book for fathers, a book where the father goes on a fabulous, heroic, epic adventure. And so, Fortunately, the Milk was born.
With Mom away, Dad is in charge, and naturally chaos ensues. When the narrator and his sister go to get breakfast, there is no milk, nothing to put on cereal, except perhaps orange juice or ketchup. So off Dad goes to get the milk, and along the way he falls into an adventure involving alien abduction, a time traveling stegosaurus, and, fortunately, the milk.
Fortunately, the Milk is a quirky little novel. While it lacks the depth of his popular children’s novels Coraline and The Graveyard Book, it is a whole lot of fun. I really enjoyed Gaiman’s narrator and his father’s zany adventures, and Skottie Young’s illustrations work perfectly with this rather bizarre romp. However, it’s not one of those books that crosses age lines; it is very clearly a light, fluffy middle grade novel. For older readers, I’d recommend sitting down with it at the library (I finished it in an hour or so), but for young readers it would make a great introduction to Gaiman’s world, where adventure can happen anywhere, even on the way to pick up the milk. Fortunately, the Milk goes on sale September 17.