Fortunately, the Milk… by Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell
I’ve been waiting for just the right moment to read this and the other day was just the right time. I was tired, I was a little disappointed with my day and I’d had to walk half the way home because I’d missed my bus. In the rain.
All I really wanted to do was curl up all on my own in my duvet, snugged in tight and quiet, and settle down to read in absolute peace with nothing left to rattle and niggle at me. The time was right, this was the book I picked to read and it was just the tonic I was hoping it would be!
You know how it goes. Your mum’s gone off to present a paper on lizards and Dad is In Charge. But this morning there’s no milk, and since you can’t eat cereal without milk (and because tea is much better off with it too), Dad has gone off to get some. He’s taken rather a long time though and his story, when he gets back with the moo juice, is distinctly peculiar…
There’s a lot to love in this little book, and not just because it cheered me up after a No Good Very Bad Day. It’s quirky (of course), not least because one of it’s main characters is a Stegosaurus in a white coat munching hard-hairy-wet-white-crunchers (or coconuts if you’re not a dinosaur in the habit of naming things) whilst flying a time machine. It’s a dinosaur in a time machine, how can anyone not be hooked?!
Professor Steg’s names for things kept me chortling throughout the book and the parade of other characters made sure some snickers joined those chortles. I especially liked the globby green aliens that would occasionally stick themselves to walls or the pint-sized god of people with short, funny names. It’s all silly, it’s all whimsical and it’s utterly beguiling. I dare you not to develop a deep fondness for at least one of the many people the Father meets as he journies to provide his children with the all-important milk. There’s even time for a spot of timetravel theory and quantum physics along the way. How does that fit with a stegosaurus in a lab coat and a pint of milk? I’m not going to tell you, partly because it’s better to read the whole book than try to explain even part of it but mostly because Mr Gaiman is far better at that sort of thing than I am anyway.
Naturally, you can’t review this book without mentioning the illustrations. I always love Chris Riddell’s illustrations of course, but I’m especially fond of some of the ones he’s done here. The Father bears more than a striking resemblance to Mr Gaiman himself (which does make me wonder about the his thinking behind this little gem) and I find myself flipping back over and over again to look at the (very) ruffly pirates or the truly emo wumpires. My favourite though has to be the picture of the Father catching the milk with his stomach (page 92), or possibly when he’s just fumbled the milk and dropped it onto the God of People with Short, Funny Names (page 60).
I’ve loved Riddell’s drawings since I first picked up a copy of Meteorite Spoon when I was still in single figures, but I have to say, I think I love more of the drawings in this book than I do in any of the others I’ve read that he’s illustrated (which takes some doing, I have to say. I’m really rather fond of Beyond the Deepwoods and the Stone Pilot after all). Just something about a Stegosaurus in a white coat, it’s obviously a weakness of mine…
I was trying to think of ways to describe this little book to polish off this review and so far the best I can come up with is ‘it’s a twinkle in the eye’. It reminds me a great deal of the stories my uncle used to tell me when I was little (and even not so little). There was a man who never quite lost the inner child and he took great delight in telling me stories that sounded completely bats but were just believable enough that I found myself wondering which bits were true and secretly hoping all of it was. He had a particular look in his eye when he told these stories and that’s the one I attach Fortunately, the Milk to – the twinkle in the eye, the tongue-in-cheek mischief, the sheer fun of something nonsensical and utterly barking. It’s the same look I hope I have in my eyes when I tell small children exactly how my hair turned green, the one that says ‘We both know I’m probably telling a couple of porkies here but really, let’s see how outrageous we can make this story!’. A twinkle in the eye, that’s the best I can come up with to describe this little book and I can only hope it gets across what I mean properly to you.
Well, regardless of how accurately I can describe this book or what it’s ended up reminding me of, the fact remains that I loved it so much that not only do I have a proof of it (thank you Bloomsbury for that), but I also went out the the other day and bought a fully-fledged copy of it too.
Find Fortunately, the Milk here