Release Date: Sept. 17, 2013
Publisher: Harper Collins Children's
Age Group: Middle Grade
Buy: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / IndieBound
While picking up milk for his children's cereal, a father is abducted by aliens and finds himself on a wild adventure through time and space.
Fortunately, The Milk is a spiritual sequel to one of Gaiman’s previous children’s books, The Day I Traded My Dad For Two Goldfish. The former has been described by Gaiman as his “apology to fathers,” since the father in the latter spends the entire book reading his newspaper. The premise of Fortunately, The Milk is simple enough: a father goes to the store to buy milk. Of course, this is a Neil Gaiman book, so things go sideways rather quickly. On his way home, the father is kidnapped by aliens who want to remodel the earth (Who wouldn’t want to replace every tree with a lawn flamingo?). So begins the father’s quest to not just escape from the aliens, but to do so without losing the milk.
This is a book that skates by on pure style. There are no well-sketched characters or even a particularly cohesive plot. And that’s okay. The entire point of the book is to be a whole lot of fun. It succeeds brilliantly.
The book is little more than a series of four-to-five page confrontations between the father (sometimes accompanied by a stegosaurus who has invented a time machine) and an array of creative antagonists, such as the aforementioned aliens. There’s also a surprisingly complicated time-travel story, but the complexity is mostly a result of Gaiman trying to push the number and absurdity of the paradoxes to the point of hilarity. The best way I can describe the novel is as Neil Gaiman telling you a bedtime story. If you like his previous work, you’ll love this book as well. The fate of the space-time continuum depends on a carton of milk. What more do you need?
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the illustrations by artist Skottie Young. The art is done in a sort of pen-sketched, rough-around-the-edges version of the style in A Nightmare Before Christmas. The illustrations invade the margins and curl between paragraphs. They match the hilarity of Gaiman’s prose and occasionally add a few visual gags or hints that aren’t in the text. The book would be tons of fun without Young’s art, but it does add to the enjoyment.