It was just a quick trip down to the shop on the corner, to buy some milk for cereal. And tea. Definitely tea. Nothing out of the ordinary would happen on a trip like that, especially with two children waiting at home to eat their cereal, and their mom gone to a conference. In Fortunately, The Milk, by Newbery Award-winning author Neil Gaiman, the father thinks it should only take a few minutes to walk out of the house, down the street, into the store and back home again, with the milk. Unless . . .

It might take a little longer if he were to be abducted by aliens who intended to remodel the planet. But escaping from them through the space-time continuum shouldn’t take too long, and as long as he still has the milk everything should end happily. Unless he falls through the space-time continuum and ends up on an 18th-century Spanish pirate ship captained by the Queen of the Pirates. However, that adventure would end quickly as well, so long as he were rescued by Professor Steg’s Floaty-Ball-Person-Carrier, and still had the milk in his pocket. Unless Professor Steg was a giant Stegosaurus from the future who could only transport him home in his tempermental time-machine. Though really, as long as he has the milk, everything should work out just fine.

Fortunately, The Milk is a fast-paced, zany story, made even more entertaining by the expressive illustrations of Skottie Young. Gaiman crafts the kind of tale that any parent who has had to come up with a creative on-the-spot defense will recognize. Kids will be in on the joke from nearly the beginning, and will delight in watching the children gain the upper hand and expose their father’s story as nothing but an elaborate excuse. Unless, of course, it isn’t. . . .

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