After receiving an advance reader’s copy of Neil Gaiman’s Fortunately, the Milk, I asked my class if they’d like me to read it aloud. Now keep in mind that while Neil Gaiman may have a huge adult fan base, he isn’t particularly well-known among young kids. Actually, I’d say he isn’t known at all. My 4th grade students were way too young when The Graveyard Book won the Newbery. As for Coraline which is even older, a couple said they’d found the movie scary and none knew the book. And so they were wary. At their request I read aloud the flap copy which intrigued them and so they decided I could proceed.
The author rightly describes the story as “very silly.” That it is! The basic premise is that a father goes out to get some milk for his children’s cereal and has a spot of trouble ….well, quite a bit of trouble to be honest…before making it home. There are dinosaurs (and I was very appreciative of those students who helped me to correctly pronounce their names), bodily fluids, a Floaty-Ball-Person-Carrier, wumpires, aliens, and a very intrepid dad.
The class really liked it. Many of them really, really liked it! Enough to beg me to read more and more of it over the next few days until I was done. (It was a quick read — I believe it took three or four sessions to finish it.) I had thought it might be a little young for them, but I was wrong. In fact, this shaggy dog of a tale ended up being perfectly calibrated to read aloud to nine and ten-year-olds. Not that they would notice or care, but it felt a bit in the tradition, humor-wise, of Dr. Who, Douglas Adams, or Terry Pratchett while being very much its own thing.
I tweeted to Neil that I was reading it and he asked if they were laughing and I was able to assure him that they were. There were chortles, snorts, and bursts of glee. And so I can say for sure that it is loads of fun. (And this was without the art as the ARC has mostly sketches.) For some enthusiastic student responses please go here.