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Recommended Reads for Children: Fortunately, the Milk…

Written by Beth Pochin, 12th November 2013

Marianne is back with another great Recommended Read for Children, Fortunately, the Milk..., by Neil Gaiman.

FTMIIn light of Neil Gaiman's inspiring address to the Reading Agency published in the Guardian on October 15th I thought it fitting to review one of his latest books for children. In this lecture Gaiman talks of the 'obligation to imagine', and as a writer for children sees this as crucial to what he does. Read any of his books and you will see that he does this very very well.  He speaks of how everything around us has at some point been imagined and indeed, with brilliance in his latest book he exemplifies how a story can be found in every moment, step, nook and cranny of life. If you want to allow your imagination to wander around in Neil Gaiman's head for a bit I suggest you read 'Fortunately, the Milk'.

Our story begins in the kitchen. Two kids, with dry cereal, and a Dad with 'no tea face' realise that they forgot to get the milk. Dad comes to the rescue and dashes off to the store to save breakfast! But time ticks slowly by until the kids strongly consider soaking their cereal in orange juice. Dad swoops back in the door with much more than just milk, a hilarious 'you will never guess what happened to me' story that will have you laughing out loud.  The story that follows is a highflying, alien abduction, will-the-milk-make-it-home-in-time tale with genius twists and turns through time.  It’s a chaotic, action packed ride met with dinosaurs, aliens and a talking volcano! You will find yourself reading this out loud without meaning to, words like 'FIZZ', 'PLIP' and “thummthumm” need to be off the page. Gaiman captures the magic of storytelling perfectly on the page and captures the joy and magic of a Dad telling a story to his children beautifully.

I encourage you to read any of Neil Gaiman's books he truly is a wonderful storyteller that never fails to please. In his lecture he highlights the great importance of reading for pleasure and reading aloud:

We have an obligation to read aloud to our children. To read them things they enjoy. To read to them stories we are already tired of. To do the voices, to make it interesting, and not to stop reading to them just because they learn to read to themselves.

Working in the children's section of a bookstore it is great to be given the opportunity to recommend books to parents and carers but what is even better is to talk to children themselves about what they love to read. I agree with Gaiman that there are no bad authors for children, we must encourage any enthusiasm they have for books, books they enjoy will lead to more books, do not kill the pleasure they have found, this will lead to nothing.

Reading for pleasure is at the heart of The Reader Organisation's ethos, through shared reading they connect with adults and children everyday. I don't know if Neil Gaiman is aware of the work that The Reader Organisation does but hope he soon will be.  Here is a group of committed and enthusiastic individuals working together to raise a nation of readers through the pleasures of shared reading, strong with the belief that 'everything changes when we read.

Fortunately, the Milk, Neil Gaiman, Bloomsbury, (2013)

NB: Neil Gaiman is indeed aware of TRO's work - he very kindly gave us his poem 'Instructions' to use as the opening of our anthology, A Little, Aloud for Children, completely free of charge.

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