Title: Fortunately the Milk
Author: Neil Gaiman
Publisher: Harper Collins
Genre: Fantasy/Science Fiction
Themes: Time Travel, Imagination
Age Range: 3rd-6th Grade
One day, when Mother has left Father in charge of the children, there is no milk for the cereal. Father goes off to the market to purchase some, and comes back some hours later with the most fantastical tale of time travel. Fortunately, the milk helped him get out of some pretty serious scrapes. He was kidnapped by aliens, forced to walk the plank by pirates, and rescued by a stegosaurus in a hot air balloon. The children aren't sure what to make of this story-was their dad really abducted by aliens, or is this convoluted story made up just to excuse their father's tardiness?
Followers of this blog, and my adult book blog Book Addict Reviews, will know that I have a bit of hero worship going on when it comes to Neil Gaiman. He is one of those people that makes me wish that science had the ability to transport us into another person's mind to live for a day, just to see what makes them tick. Of course, that's what writers use words for, to present their unique perspective and voice, and Gaiman gives us a pretty clear view into his imagination with Fortunately, the Milk.
According to Publisher's Weekly, Gaiman wrote this book as a counterpoint to the father in the book The Day I Swapped my Dad for Two Goldfish (my review here), in which the father is basically a passive lump to whom things happen, rather than an active participant in the story. Gaiman wanted to write a story in which the father did the sort of heroic things that fathers wish they could do, with a healthy does of humor thrown in. The book is quite short, especially when you factor in the illustrations on each page, but Gaiman fits in lots and lots of action. It is essentially non-stop, with aliens and dinosaurs and pirates and all manner of silliness. In fact, that silliness highlights one of the things that I love about Gaiman's writing. How is it possible that the same man who wrote the very dark story Ocean and the End of the Lane could be the man who wrote Fortunately, the Milk? Because he is mad versatile, that's how!
I would definitely say this book would make an excellent addition to any classroom library, and it could also be used as a read aloud or for guided reading. There is not a ton of character development, but it is science fiction that does NOT include a superhero, which can be hard to find for this age range. The time travel creates a narrative structure that is linear, sort of, but could lead to interesting discussions with students about time and the way we perceive it. And as a mentor text for writing it could work great-students could choose an errand or chore they were supposed to do, and come up with a fantastical story for how or why it did or did not get accomplished.
Harper Collins Discussion Guide
Brightbulb STEM Activities for Fortunately, the Milk