Take one dad, add a bottle of milk, a flying saucer, and a helpful time-traveling dino-scientist, and you’ll have the ingredients for one rowdy tale. Fortunately, the Milk is Neil Gaiman’s odd, delightful recipe for read-aloud fun, especially between father and son.
Mom has left for a conference, and Dad makes mugs of hot chocolate for the kids. Unfortunately, he uses all the milk, so breakfast the next morning seems awfully dry. Dad sets off to remedy the situation by buying milk, but his return is delayed by an unexpected abduction by green aliens from outer space.
What fun Skottie Young must have had illustrating this boisterous novel. His pen-and-ink drawings show spikey-haired Dad with his elongated scarf, a flying saucer as big as a ballpark, and a barrage of quirky aliens, monsters, and vampires. That’s one way to ensure that giggles will erupt from beginning to end.
The other way, of course, is with a plot that is silly beyond belief, an aspect that supplies a frisson of pleasure so often denied to children in their stressed-out, structured world. By employing such crazy elements, Gaiman gives us permission to unleash our own imagination, to juxtapose unlikely objects and events, to experiment with stories. In fact, the pace and style of Fortunately, the Milk perfectly mimic the approach a parent might take when seizing random elements along with the children’s own favorites (pirates, prancing ponies, etc.) and concocting a tale to entertain an antsy child.
Gaiman’s gift to us all is his implication that you can find magic in the simplest ingredients. And isn’t that one reason we are grateful for a good story?
For great Thanksgiving possibilities, see my prior post.