Thursday, 11 July 2013

Fortunately, The Milk, by Neil Gaiman

There is no milk. Not only does this mean no breakfast for the children – unless they fancy pouring orange juice over their cereal – but no morning tea for dad. Mum’s gone away to a conference and although she did remind dad that he’d need to buy milk, he forgot. But when he pops around the corner to get some – morning tea is vital to the day, after all - he takes an awfully long time. An awfully, awfully long time. What were you doing? The children ask when he finally returns. Well, he says…

And so begins an awesome and almost unbelievable tale (almost unbelievable?) of what happened to dad on his way back from the corner shop. It’s an adventure and a half – and some – involving space aliens, dinosaur police, volcanoes, time travel, wumpires (yes, wumpires), pirates, and a rather special hot air balloon – sorry, I mean a Floaty-Ball-Person-Carrier. Brilliantly illustrated by Chris Riddell, Neil Gaiman’s story goes in and out, around in a circle, back and forth through time, and back to the beginning – or should I say the end? Fortunately, the milk survives this incredible journey.

Gaiman’s prose is simple, his story funny, clever, incredibly tightly plotted and wonderfully tongue-in-cheek, while Riddell’s illustrations bring the amusements to life, including a dad who looks suspiciously like Gaiman. Is this story perhaps semi-autobiographical? And if it is a tale of milk and adventure that he told his own children, would you believe him?

Fortunately, The Milk will undoubtedly appeal to all generations, be read aloud at bedtime (or perhaps breakfast time), engage new readers, elicit sniggers and ‘ohs’ as all the dots begin to connect up. Check out the brilliant names of the lesser characters in the back of the book and, once you’ve read it, go back to the beginning and look again at the first illustration… (no cheating beforehand though). This man is a genius.

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