I love my job. I think that goes without saying. Now, I may be a bit baised when I say it’s the best job in the entire world, but I really do think it is incredibly fun and I feel like the luckiest person alive because of what I get to do every day.
As part of my job, I get to read several book review magazines and build our collection. This is awesome. It boggles my mind just how many new children’s books come out every month. It also boggles my mind how many books on the same topic come out at the same time from different authors and publishers. This year’s hot topic is Big Foot. Go figure. Vampires are dead! (Pun intended).
Anyway, the amount of potential stories is amazing. And buried within that heap of potential books, I get to play librarian and search for the best ones; the ones that I think are going to rock the kids’ socks. When we get a new shipment in, I’m like a kid in a candy store…or a librarian in a library. I finally get to hold in my hand the books I chose. I can read them and see if I’ve made the right choice. Of course, it’s impossible to read absolutely everything. But, I don’t want to get complacent. And when the kids come and ask me, “Miss Molly…what should I read?” I want to give them an honest answer. I don’t want to hand them something I haven’t read, tell them it’s good, and send them on their way. That’s not responsible librarianship. Books contain ideas. Books contain connections. Books are gateways. I feel it is my mission to help each child make the right connection.
There is almost nothing worse than handing a kid a book you haven’t read and having them ask you questions about it. I feel that if I can’t answer their questions about the story to get them excited about the book (because I haven’t read it and I’M NOT EXCITED about it) they are not going to trust me as a librarian or my opinion. They will just say, “oh,” look at the book, and put it down when they think I’m not looking. Librarian fail.
Long story short: I read a lot of children’s books. And quite a few of them are absolutely awesome. Some are merely mediocre, but that’s to be expected. In my vast experience [of the past few months of intense reading], I have worse luck with adult books than children’s. Adult books try too hard, where children’s books embrace their silliness. They still have character development and conflict. They are emotionally driven, or character driven, or situation driven. They are complex. They have figurative language and important details. Just because it’s a children’s book, that doesn’t mean it has a diminished sense of “literary merit”. So, my advice to you, dear reader, is this: If you are having a string of bad luck with adult books, check out the children’s section. You will most likely not go wrong.
With that in mind, I thought I would do my first book review. I chose this Neil Gaiman’s book Fortunately, the Milk.
I love Mr. Gaiman. His books are full of wonderful juxtapositions: the weird and the beautiful, the dark and the hopeful, the strange and the exciting. He also has a wonderful knack of taking something that almost shouldn’t make sense and making sense out of it.
Fortunately, the Milk is the perfect example of all the mishmashes mentioned above. This book chronicles a father’s quest to get, you guessed it, milk. The family had run out of that delicious lactose liquid, you see, and while he originally told his children to have something for breakfast that wouldn’t require milk—like toast—he soon realized that without milk he couldn’t have his morning tea. [Keep in mind this book is very British.] So, he pops off to the corner shop to get some.
After “ages and ages”—or so the children believe—their father returns with the milk. When his children ask what took so long, their father recounts a story which started with an alien abduction, messed about with time travel, and ended with dancing dwarfs. This story was a really quick read. I’m talking maybe 35 minutes. I couldn’t stop put it down. The pages seemed to have a magnetic attachment to my fingers. Written in a conversational tone, the story moved from one misadventure to another; all linked together in a mostly logical way. But even the illogical made sense.
There are also wonderful illustrations by Scottie Young accompanying and surrounding the text. It really adds an entire dimension of humor. Often, the illustrations added another layer to the scene—this, to me, is the mark of an awesome illustrator. The level of visual intelligence needed to get the visual humor is great. The illustrations didn’t rely on cheap gags, either.
And the best part? The humor and illustrations are all kid appropriate. There is no foul language, no potty humor, just good ole fashioned silliness. I think this book is aimed at 3rd to 5th graders, but can be enjoyed by kids of all ages.
Miss Molly approved.