It’s a rare author who can move seamlessly between adult and children’s fiction and produce top work in both genres. One such author is Neil Gaiman, whose dark, twisted and magical style of writing works beautifully in any genre he chooses to use. One of the (many) great things about Neil Gaiman is his ability to remember what it’s like being a child and inject this into his writing, as shown to full effect in the daft but highly entertaining Fortunately, The Milk.
When Mum goes away with work, Dad is left to ensure the children are fed and looked after. Disaster strikes with the absence of milk, so Dad bravely ventures out to the corner shop to provide for his family. When he eventually returns it’s with a suspiciously tall tale complete with aliens, pirates, balloon-riding dinosaurs, angry volcano gods and unexplained piranhas. Not to mention the wumpires, who for breakfast like to have “viggly vorms, vith orange juice”, and one of whom may or may not be called Edvard.
Unlike full length young adult novels like Coraline, Gaiman’s latest is an unabashed children’s book, complete with illustrations by the talented Chris Riddell. It’s very silly indeed, and doesn’t worry about trying to provide a moral of any sort (other than perhaps to keep the fridge better stocked)…and is exactly what you can imagine Neil making up for his own children. Written in a deliberately simple style, the wonderful illustrations flesh out the story perfectly and often contribute narratively, in much the same way as the artwork does in a comic or graphic novel.
Children of all ages will love this book, and crucially so will adults, whether reading it individually or out loud to a rapt audience of children. In fact, even if there isn’t an audience available it’s worth reading some of it out loud just to see if you can do it without laughing! You probably can’t.
In a recent Huffington Post article a columnist bemoaned the idea of adults reading children’s books, as there are apparently “so many other books out there that are surely more stimulating for grown-up minds.” She probably shouldn’t read Fortunately, The Milk in that case. For the rest of us who understand how valuable it is to be reminded of what it’s like being a child, this book should be mandatory reading. Speed through it all in one go, dip in and out, read it to yourself or read it out loud and put on silly voices…it doesn’t matter. Just read it, enjoy it, and let yourself be young again.