The first time I read a children's book by Neil Gaiman (Coraline) I was left terrified, the second time (The Graveyard Book) slightly sad. While I loved Coraline and The Graveyard Book, the third time really has proved lucky - Fortunately, the Milk... is a charming book which had me giggling at every sentence.
Mum is away, and when there's no milk for the cereal, Dad goes down to the corner shop to get some. Only he's gone for ages and ages and ages. When he comes back, his curious children want to know what happened.
So Dad tells his son and daughter a crazy story about being abducted by aliens, escaping pirates, going on adventures with a stegosaurus who's a professor, and hanging out with the intergalactic police.
From the moment Fortunately, the Milk... begins to the moment it ends, it's full of all the stuff that children make up when they're playing, and that's its charm. Globby aliens, scary pirates, and a big rescue - these are the types of stories plenty of kids make up when hanging out with their friends. Only when an adult tells the story, however good it is, children are not likely to believe it, just like the two youngsters in the book.
While Fortunately, the Milk... is a children's novel, it's full of little asides that are great for older readers - a few references to Twilight, some really strong, modern female characters (I'll leave you to work out who), and two children who are pretty savvy.
Accompanying Gaiman's flowing storytelling are gorgeous black and white illustrations by Chris Riddell, who renders a protagonist who looks surprisingly like Gaiman (!) as well as countless creatures and plenty of pirates and wumpires (they're like vampires but with a 'wu').
Fortunately, the Milk... takes plenty of cues from the reboot of Doctor Who on BBC One, and could almost be turned into an episode of the show. In fact, I can imagine Matt Smith's Doctor telling this tale to a group of children, complete with funny voices and lots of shouting.
If you like your stories fast paced, full of adventure, and with a good dollop of laughter, you'll love Fortunately, the Milk...
•Fortunately, the Milk... is out on September 17.
How I got this book: From the publisher, Bloomsbury.