Isn’t Fortunately, the Milk… such a brilliant title? I’m not quite sure what makes it so amusing, perhaps because it’s so utterly random. It’s what caught my eye (and because it’s just so shiny!). And then I found out that it’s illustrated – I’m a sucker for illustrated books. Chris Riddell is fast becoming one of my favourite illustrators. (I’ve already bought Goth Girl and the Ottoline books). And of course, I was eager to see which fantasy world Neil Gaiman would take us to next (although, I’ll admit, I’ve only read The Graveyard Book and watched Coraline). So, I was looking forward to curling up with a blanket, a cup of peppermint tea and getting stuck into my first book of the year.
Mum has left the house for a work conference and so has left Dad in charge. Of course, he forgets to stock up on milk for his children’s cereal before school. On his way home from the shop, a glittery, shimmery beam of light sucks him up into a strange disc among the clouds, controlled by green, globby, grumpy things. If you don’t think you’d appreciate a funny, silly and absurd story involving unstereotypical pirates, vampires (also known as wumpires), familiar ponies and unplanned time-travelling, Fortunately the Milk… is probably not for you and you should pick another book up instead. Now that you’re willing to try this bizarre tale, Goodreads tells me that 142 of my friends have it added it their shelves, so don’t think that it’s just for children! If you’ve read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy or watched Doctor Who, you’ll love this! It’s a pure joy to read – extremely clever and witty, accompanied by fantastical illustrations. (I also need to buy the edition illustrated by Skottie Young). Who knew that fetching a pint of milk from the corner shop – and ensuring its safety – could lead to so much trouble?
Fortunately, the Milk… has a wonderful set of characters, usefully illustrated at the back of the book, although I wish we’d heard a little more from Mad Matilda the Girl Buccaneer – who you can tell is delightful and cheeky just by the expression on her face – and the children, especially the little sister because I loved her dry sense of humour. (‘Are there any ponies in this? I thought there would be ponies by now.’). But we have a wacky host of characters to accompany us on the blue Caribbean Sea, into a Floaty-Ball-Person-Carrier and then catapulted into a poorly thought-out plan that involves roasted professor…
Fortunately, the Milk… is the perfect book to read if you’re having a bad day and just want to feel better. It’s a hilariously bizarre adventure, with the entertaining Professor Steg as our guide and I’d love to hear Neil Gaiman talk about it sometime. I do love a dark, sad story, but sometimes it’s just nice to smile. Fortunately, the Milk… is a good, fun story that you’ll want to share straight after you’ve read it, whether it’s with your little cousin or your grandmother. Now, which Neil Gaiman novel should I read next?
Published: 17th September 2013
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s Books (UK) HarperCollins (USA)