I could hardly wait to read the book when it was released last month, and most of all, I wanted to read it with my ten-year-old, Dylan.
About six months ago, we changed Dylan’s bedtime routine from me reading a story aloud, to the two of us listening to an audiobook together. I bought a little gadget that plugs into my iPod which lets me plug in two sets of headphones, and every night we snuggle together and listen, while following along with the print copy of the book at the same time.
(I think following along with the print – or ebook – copy of the book is important, because the experience of associating the written word with the spoken word helps Dylan’s reading-on-his-own skills.)
Fortunately, the Milk is a wonderful book for this kind of audio experience. The print copy is so nicely illustrated with very whimsical and fun drawings by Skottie Young, and the audio version is narrated by Neil himself – and if you’ve never listened to an audiobook narrated by Neil Gaiman, you really, truly should do so as soon as possible. He is an excellent narrator. I seriously cannot imagine listening to an audio of any of his books that wasn’t narrated by him.
The book, which is 128 pages long in the hardcover version, is basically one long tale without any chapter breaks. Let me tell you, it was hard for us not to go through the whole thing in one sitting – but that would have taken an hour and we normally limit our bedtime audiobook to around fifteen minutes (otherwise we’d have one very sleepy-eyed boy in the mornings). So I had to do the very difficult job of pointing to the end of a page ahead of time and whispering, “we’ll stop here, okay?”
You know how, when you’re reading a book and come across something that’s slyly funny, you really want to share it with someone? Well, listening and reading Fortunately, the Milk together had Dylan and I exchanging smiley glances with each other over and over again. Especially as we neared the end of the book.
It’s a very special feeling, getting one of those smiley looks from your son as you’re experiencing a book together.
And then there were the times when we laughed out loud. There were several funny, laugh out loud moments in the book.
Fortunately, the Milk tells the story of the tall tale weaved by a father of two children to explain to them why he was gone rather a long time when he went to get the milk for their breakfast cereal. One of our favourite scenes occurs when the father first meets Professor Steg, a time-travelling stegosaurus:
“I am an inventor,” he said. “I have invented the thing we are traveling in, which I call Professor Steg’s Floaty-Ball-Person Carrier.”
“I call it a balloon,” I said.
“Professor Steg’s Floaty-Ball-Person-Carrier is the original name,” he said. “And right now, we are one hundred and fifty million years in the future.”
“Actually,” I said, “we are about three hundred years in the past.”
“Do you like hard-hairy-wet-white-crunchers?” he asked.
“Coconuts?” I guessed.
“I named them first,” said Professor Steg.
We love how Professor Steg names things! Now I’ll say to Dylan, “So, what do you call a hot-air balloon?” and he’ll say, “A Floaty-Ball-Person-Carrier!”. And then we’ll both crack up.
This is a funny story that’s really worth sharing with your favourite, special small person. If you can, share it the way we did, with both the excellent audio version and the print copy in your hands at the same time. That way you get to listen to Neil Gaiman’s wonderful narration and enjoy Scottie Young’s fun drawings at the same time. Really, it’s the way the book’s meant to be read!