Neil Gaiman is a really prolific writer. I’ve heard great things about his books for adults and kids, but this is the first book of his that I have read. Fortunately, The Milk was published in the fall of 2013. It was highly recommended by a reader (thanks, Tiffany!), and we really enjoyed it!
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Fortunately, the Milk is about a dad who leaves his two kids at home to pick up some milk while their mother is away on a trip. He is gone for much longer than it should take, and when he comes back, he has an amazing story of what happened on his way home from the store with the milk.
This book is really cute! It reminds me of Roald Dahl’s works. I think it would be a great book to read out loud with your kids. It’s funny, has lots of illustrations (by Skottie Young), and no chapters. I have not seen any of the Dr. Who series, but something about this book made me think of that series (maybe the time travel – or the dad’s scarf in the illustrations).
Here is a video of the author introducing the book:
The message of Fortunately, the Milk is that there is always hope, no matter what circumstance you find yourself in.
Parents might want to know that there is a little gross humor (mostly references to snot), there are aliens, space travel, vampires (mostly called “wumpires”), and many dangerous situations. It’s all told with humor and stays light enough that most kids would not be scared. Please see my ratings for more details if you’re concerned.
My Mom-Meter gives Fortunately, The Milk an overall safety rating of 1 (Safe) for ages 7 and up.
The Lexile rating for Fortunately, The Milk is 680L.
Category ratings (click on the category to see specifics):
The story is told from the perspective of a son (names are never mentioned for the family) whose mother is leaving to present a paper on lizards at a conference. His dad would be taking care of him and his sister for the week. The mom leaves with a string of instructions, and on the way out the door mentions that they will need to pick up more milk. The father does great with all of the instructions, except the milk. The next morning, they realize that they are out of milk, and the father walks to the corner store to pick some up for breakfast. He is gone for quite a while, and the children end up eating dry cereal. When their father returns, he has the craziest story of what happened after he bought the milk.
First, he was picked up by aliens into their spaceship. They tell him they are going to take over the world and redecorate it, and they want his permission as a representative of the species. The dad refuses, and things are just about to get terrible when he sees an emergency exit, and escape in a space-time continuum. He falls through the sky, lands in the sea, and is picked up by the Queen of Pirates and her crew. She tells him that he must either join her crew or get his throat slit and be fed to the fishes. He suggests a plank instead, and shows the pirates how to make a plank. Just as he is about to fall into the shark-infested water, a rope ladder appears and he climbs up. He meets a stegosaurus flying a hot air balloon. Professor Steg, as he is known, is an inventor. He has a time travel machine (called “Really Good Moves Around in Time Machine”) on the hot air balloon (called “Professor Steg’s Floaty-Ball-Person-Carrier”), but Professor Steg needs an emerald in order to make the Time Machine take them back to Professor Steg’s time.
They manage to go back 1,000 years and land on an island, right on a temple. The people of the island were just about to sacrifice a man to the gods in order to have a better harvest wen the hot air balloon showed up. They assume they should sacrifice Professor Steg and the dad, until they see him holding up a bottle of milk. Apparently, their priest had been given a prophecy the week before that a “man and a spiny-backed monster descent from the skies on a round floaty thing… if the man held up milk then we were not to sacrifice them, but we were meant to… give them… the green jewel that is the eye of Splod.” When they get the emerald from the idol, they install it in the Time Machine. Then, the volcano starts to erupt, and the dad drops the milk. It lands on the top of the idol’s head, and then another hot air balloon appears and a man grabs the milk.
Professor Steg then uses the Time Machine to go forward into the “far, far future.” They are at the volcano (now extinct), and they take the emerald from the eye of Splod. they now have two emeralds, and Professor Steg warns the dad that “according to my calculations, if the same object from two different times touches itself, one of two things will happen. Either the Universe will cease to exist. Or three remarkable dwarfs will dance through the streets with flowerpots on their heads.”
Professor Steg uses the Time Machine again, and they give the priest the prophecy about them coming with milk, and then they use the Time Machine to go forward a week, and grab the milk after it was dropped. They use the Time Machine again and arrive in a very dark land with “pallid people with very sharp teeth.” They are “wumpires,” or vampires, and they threaten to eat Professor Steg and the dad, but Professor Steg uses the Time Machine to go forward 6 hours in time, and the sunlight made the “wumpires” disappear “into a cloud of oily black smoke.”
Just as soon as they were past that crisis, a voice said “I’ll explain later. Fate of the world at stake.” and a hand reached out of nowhere, taking the milk. The hole then reappeared, and someone shouts “Catch!” as the milk is thrown back to the dad. Professor Steg then uses the Time Machine to arrive back in the present day, at the children’s home. All is right, except the aliens are still there in their spaceship.
The aliens had blocked off the emergency exit the dad had used earlier, and they “depowered” the Time Machine. The aliens transported all of the enemies the dad and Profesor Steg had made along the trip, and the aliens are ready to turn the dad over to his enemies if he will not agree to give the earth to the aliens. The Time Machine only has enough power for “a small window in time and space.” The dad asks Professor Steg to open that window, and the dad reaches into the window, saying “I’ll explain later. Fate of the world at stake.” and brings back another bottle of milk. The dad then threatens to touch the two milks together – potentially destroying the Universe. The aliens reluctantly send all of the enemies away, and then the “Galactic Police” show up to arrest the aliens for “breaking into people’s planets and redecorating them.”
The aliens are arrested, and it looks like everything will return to normal, when the dad forgets and accidentally touches the two bottles of milk together. Thankfully, the Universe does not end. Instead, “three purple dwarfs with flowerpots on their heads” begin dancing and after their dance, they vanished. The dad then sends the milk back through the window of space and time, saying “Catch!” The dinosaurs sing some songs for the dad, take photographs with the milk, and then they drop the dad off at his home.
The children do not believe this story because there are lots of things around the room that could have inspired such a wild tale. The dad does not defend his story. Instead, he sits down with the paper to read, and the illustrations show the children discovering a pirate doubloon sticking to the bottom of the bottle of milk. So maybe he was telling the truth after all…
- Professor Steg makes the priest think that an angel is speaking to him, predicting the Professor’s and the dad’s arrival with milk. It saved their lives, but was it right to lie?
- This was a crazy story! Do you think that the dad was telling the truth?
- The children are skeptical of their father’s story and think that he just got caught up talking to someone and lost track of the time.
- The “wumpires” eat worms in orange juice.
- There are lots of references to “snot” when describing the aliens. One alien is described as a “huge green globby person who looked like he was mostly made of snot.”
- The aliens “sighed with a noise like a hundred elephantine snot balloons all deflating at once.”
- An aliens is described as “so green and small and so globby and crusted that he might have been an enormous snot-bubble blown by an elephant with a terrible head-cold.”
- Professor Steg calls the aliens “evil redecorating snot-bubbles.”
- The dad says “jolly well” once.
- There are aliens. They are described as “a bit green and rather globby, and they looked very grumpy indeed.” (there are a few illustrations of the aliens)
- The word “mermaid” is mentioned twice.
- The Islanders call Professor Steg a “monster” several times.
- The Islanders are going to sacrifice a man to the gods in order to have a good harvest. They then plan to sacrifice Professor Steg and the dad, until they see the milk.
- The Islanders worship “Splod,” a volcano god, the “god of people with short, funny names.”
- Dwarfs are mentioned a few times, and three purple dwarfs appear near the end of the book. They dance and then disappear.
- Most of the story happens through time travel.
- There are talking dinosaurs and talking colorful ponies.
- Professor Steg and the dad end up in a land full of “wumpires,” or vampires. They want to eat Professor Steg and the dad.
- The daughter wants more “wumpires” in the story. There is a reference to her vampire books (the one in the illustration is called “Bitelight,” a witty riff on Twilight).
- Professor Steg deceives the priest on the island by telling him that a man would arrive with a bottle of milk, so don’t hurt him. The priest believed it was an angel speaking to him, and Professor Steg did not correct him. It was a lie of omission, but it saved their lives.
Potentially Offensive Behavior:
- Several people are described as “fat.”
- Aliens intend to take over the planet and redecorate. They ask for the dad’s permission, and when he refuses, they threaten to bring his worst enemies in.
- The Queen of the Pirates threatens to slit the dad’s throat and feed him to the fishes if he will not become a pirate.
- The dad teaches the pirates how to make a plank, and he has to walk the plank. There are sharks waiting below. (The illustrations might be scary for the very young)
- The Islanders are going to sacrifice Professor Steg and the dad to the gods before they see the bottle of milk.
- The “wumpires” are going to eat Professor Steg and the dad. They vaporize when exposed to sunlight.
- The aliens gather all of the enemies Professor Steg and the dad have made through this adventure, and they are all ready to kill the Professor and the dad. There are piranhas.
- The pirates have pistols.
- The Islanders have “sharp stone knives.”
From a ten-year-old’s perspective: “This was a funny book! I liked it because it was so far-fetched and ridiculous that it was obviously not true – but it actually ended up being true. I think it’s a quick, easy, funny read. It would be an amazing read-aloud for ages 6 and up. I think 7 years and older would enjoy reading it.”
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