There's an ever growing pile of books I want to read…
A little while ago, before I went on holiday, I saw that Bloomsbury were offering limited edition, signed, numbered proof copies of Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell. I sent them a somewhat begging email and didn’t receive a reply. Then I went away and forgot all about it. When I got back, there didn’t seem to be anything waiting for me, so I just got on with my life.
About a week after that, I walked into the cupboard under the stairs at my store and found an envelope with my name on it. Inside it was this:
I’m not sure there are words for how excited I was! Look, it’s signed:
I got on the bus that night, headed home, and read the entire thing in one sitting. Admittedly, not too tricky; it’s a little book!
Fortunately the Milk is the story of a dad who runs out to the shop for some milk and has an adventure. It’s intended for younger readers. I don’t really like assigning ages to books because every child is different and has a different attention span, ability level and fondness for books (and some adults – like me – enjoy kids books!) but I would probably recommend it as one to read together with 4-6 year olds and one for 7-10 year olds to read alone.
I think it’s probably also going to be popular with Gaiman’s many adult fans and it’s one that adults will enjoy reading with those children who might need a little help. It reminded me a little of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy but for children.
I really enjoyed Fortunately the Milk but I wasn’t actually sure whether to review it because:
1) I mentioned that it’s a little book, right? I’m not sure I have a lot to say about it.
2) Neil Gaiman already has a HUGE fan base and I suspect that many of them will do a better job of telling you why you ABSOLUTELY MUST make time to read this book.
3) If you know me at all, you can probably guess what I would have to say about a book by Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell. I’m a fan of both.
So, I imagine you thinking to yourself as you read this review, why did you write this then? And why won’t you just get on with it? Those are very good questions, reader. Let me explain. And then I’ll try to get on with it.
Last week, looking at my ‘to-review’ pile, I couldn’t decide what to write about next. I took a photo of the pile and asked my Twitter followers to help me decide. Fortunately, the Milk got several votes. So here we are.
What I liked:
I honestly liked almost everything about this book. Neil Gaiman sure knows how to write and Chris Riddell continues to be one of the best illustrators around. (If you haven’t seen Chris Riddell’s Ottoline series of books, which I talked about here, you should really go to your local bookshop and take a look at them!)
The story had a lot of knowing humour and made jokes about itself as a story. The children take the part of the audience, picking at their dad’s story and pointing out where it might not be true.
I also thought that the repetition of ‘Fortunately, the milk’ worked really well to carry the story onwards.
I could at this point just give you a long list of things I enjoyed. It would start like this:
– Wumpires! One of them being named Edvard!
– A dinosaur wearing a lab coat!
– A volcano god named Splod!
– Oozy-looking aliens!
– The Pirate Queen!
Honestly, though, I think it’ll just be easier to tell you what I didn’t like.
What I didn’t like:
This story is a little too long to read aloud at Storytime and, consequently, probably too long to read aloud at bedtime. It doesn’t have convenient chapter breaks so that it can be read over more than one session. It practically demands to be read all in one go.
When I was growing up, we had a book called “Miss Flora McFlimsey’s Christmas Eve”. (Which, I have now learned was part of a series that I absolutely have to acquire secondhand now that I know the rest exist!) Every Christmas, we’d beg my mum to read it to us and she never liked to. Not because it wasn’t a good story (It was!) but because it took so long to read and would leave her with a sore voice.
Parents may be going to have the same problem with this story.
I loved it. You’ll probably love it too. It has a lot to be very excited about! I even heard that the real version (as opposed to my proof edition) will have an exciting fold-out colour page in it.