Fortunately, The Milk

Fortunately-the-MilkFortunately, The Milk is a zany, action filled science fiction adventure that will appeal to anyone who loves a humorous, fun-filled adventure. Before I address the narration of the audio book, I wanted to highlight a few great plot points that will help identify who best to recommend this book too. Obviously, if you have a patron or student who is already a Gaiman fan, this is an excellent choice for them.

Mom is away, and despite all her instructions and warning, disaster strikes at breakfast: they are out of milk. Not only can the children not eat their breakfast cereal, Dad cannot have his tea. Dad leaves to walk to the corner market to get milk, but on his way the most bizarre things happens to him. Not only does he met a stegosaurus who travels around in a hot air balloon that can drive through space and time, but he also confronts a volcano god, aliens, wumpires, and pirates all while keeping a hold of the milk.

This book is really for anyone, but if you have any young Whovians (people who like BBC’s Doctor Who) this is the perfect book for them. If they don’t have already know this, mention that Neil Gaiman wrote two Doctor Who episodes, and they’re sure to be hooked (those two episodes are The Doctor’s Wife and A Nightmare in Silver). They are likely to recognize many themes from the television show and will have no trouble following along with the space and time travel plot.

If all that wasn’t enough to entice them to pick up the book, hand them the audio book. Gaimain narrates the book and does a splendid job. The book is told the way adults imagine they tell stories to their children or children at story time. Gaiman uses different tones for each different character so it feels like there is an entire cast narrating the book instead of a single man. The pauses that would be evident in the text when reading are handled beautifully in the audio. Gaiman pauses when there needs to be pauses, his raises his voice when a character is shouting, his speaks faster and faster when the action increases, and the listeners know how each character says something before the “he said” that is necessary in a print form. Gaiman narrates so flawlessly that the “he said” and “she said” are almost never needed to distinguish between which characters are speaking.

What is even better are the sound effects used. I don’t know that Gaiman managed all the effects on his own (I doubt it, but if he did, he deserves every award possible). The green, slimy, booger like aliens (they are compared multiple times to boogers and snot bubbles, which makes them hilarious instead of scary), speak in a voice with a mechanical buzz to them. The pirates are accented and the stegosaurus, who is a professor, speaks as you would imagine a professor would: refined, dignified, and with authority. The audiobook is without a note a dramatic representation of the book, as it should be. The pauses for dramatic effect will leave listeners breathless and Gaiman’s heightened pitch, tone, and rapid speed will make listeners hearts beat rapidly. Plus, at just under an hour, this is an excellent audiobook to keep in mind for more reluctant listeners and readers.

The only drawback to the audio is that you don’t get to see the illustrations that are in the print book. However, that could also be a plus because it allows listeners to imagine what everything in the bizarre worlds looks like, instead of creating it around an illustration.

The book and audiobook is recommended for grades 2-4.

Bibliographic Information:
Gaiman, Neil. Fortunately, the Milk. 2013. Narr. Neil Gaiman. Audio recording. Harper Collins, 2013. 13 April, 2014. Digital File.

Listenalikes:
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo
Doll Bones by Holly Black

Ghost Knight by Cornelia Funke, narrated by Elliot Hill

ghostknightCornelia Funke’s Ghost Knight tells the story of eleven-year-old Jon Whitcroft, who has been sent away to a boarding school he is sure he will hate. But he never expected to be chased by angry spirits or to makes friend with quirky Ella who has a taste for adventure. After summoning the spirit of Longspee to fight out off the angry spirits, there is only one question left: Can Longspee be trusted?

The audio book starts out strong, but fizzles out near the end. It is not for a lack of action. There’s a scene early on in the book that I thought was the climax of the entire novel! It felt resolved and over. Not having the physical copy, and not paying attention to how many more hours the audio had, it was surprising to see how much longer the audio lasted.

Perhaps this was also because this particular scene had more than just the narrator’s voice. There were the sound of horse’s hooves, clashing swords, and an increased space of the narrator’s voice. The rest of the action scenes (and there are many) are lacking in this regard. The narrator is far from monotone and his accent is charming, but there are multiple occasions where the text finishes with the character “said tensely” or “tersely” or something to that effect, but the narrator’s voice gave no indication of this. It requires readers to reimagine how the sentence was said.

Despite some of the lacking in the narration, the story is engaging enough to draw readers in and keep their attention. This is good audio for children who are already listening to and might prefer audios, but is probably not the best choice for someone who is new to audiobooks.

Bibliographic Information:
Funke, Cornelia. Ghost Knight. 2012. Narr. Elliot Hill. Audio recording. Listening Library, 2012. 23 March. 2014. Digital File.

Awards:
2013 Odyssey Honor

Listenalikes:
The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke
Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman