Kurt Vonnegut (author of Slaughterhouse Five) once set a list of eight rules for creative writing. I won’t bother with them all here (you can easily find them in a Google search if you’re so intrigued), but there was always one that stood out to me. And this is the one rule that Neil Gaiman has taken to a new level in Fortunately, the Milk...:
Kurt Vonnegut’s rule of writing #3 – Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
In the case of this story, it’s two children who want milk for their cereal, and their dad is sent out to get some. But the shop is only just down the road, and he is gone for seemingly forever. What has held him up? On his return his answer includes no less than aliens, dinosaurs, vampires, pirates and a volcano god. Not to forget the ponies as well. Every good story needs some ponies.
Of course it’s a seemingly simple task that then becomes pure fantastic silliness. The children don’t seem to be buying their father’s story, and why would they? A time-travelling stegosaurus could not possibly be real…
But Chris Riddell’s illustrations are what make the silly story become amazing and real. There are illustrations on practically every page, giving life to the seeming absurdities, cleverly adding even more elements to the tale. This is the sort of story that doesn't just deserve to be illustrated, but needs to be when you have someone as talented and creative as Riddell to do the job.
The book itself is a very quick read. It can be done in one sitting. In fact, I’d recommend it to be. Just leave it for a day when you have the time to properly enjoy it.
Fortunately, the Milk... is published by Bloomsbury Books and available from most book retailers.