Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
One thing this small book proves as true is that Neil Gaiman has not forgotten what it is to be a little boy.
I decided to read this book (which was a gift for my son) after I witnessed something rather miraculous. My son likes to read, but usually requires some encouragement to keep at it for more than 20 minutes at a time. Upon opening Fortunately the Milk, my 9 year old boy became glued to the spot and did not close the book until it was completed. His face was pale and his eyes were large (as it was past his bedtime) but he insisted upon relating his favorite parts to me before going to sleep.
I promised him I would interrupt the other books I was reading in order to read this one right away.
Fortunately the Milk (FTM) is a little over 100 pages, many of them being illustrated. It reads a bit like a Roald Dahl book that married a Dr. Seuss story. Specifically, I was reminded of Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator and To Think that I Saw it on Mulberry Street. FTM is chock-full of nonsense and stream of consciousness story-telling. It has the ridiculousness that young children find completely diverting.
When a boy and his little sister discover that there is no milk for their cereal, their father goes out to buy them some...only he is gone for "ages and ages." As explanation for why he took so long, their father relates a fantastical tale involving aliens, dinosaurs, pirates and time-travel.
FTM is perfect for elementary-aged children between ages 7 to 11 (give or take). The humorous illustrations help to keep hesitant readers engaged in a fast-paced adventure story. FTM is actually a short story, as it isn't divided into chapters, and is too long to be a picture book. It is the perfect length for the wiggly, squirmy type that don't often sit still long enough to read. Gaiman accurately captures the spirit of a child's imagination while the illustrator, Skottie Young accentuates the story with images that are humorous while not being cutesy.
If I were a 9 year old boy, I would probably give this tale 5 stars. However, having read almost all of Gaiman's works and knowing what he is capable of, I gave this book 4 stars. I am sort of like that professor that only gives an A- because to give an A would mean perfection.
I HIGHLY recommend this book for any children's or elementary school library.