First let’s talk about “The Ocean at the End of the Lane“.
Let’s just come out with it to start, I love this book. Yes, it is true that I am a huge Neil Gaiman fan anyway, but The Ocean at the End of the Lane made me even more of one. It is a short book and an easy read for most people, but it is a bit hard to classify. By length an narrator, an eleven year old boy, you might be tempted to classify it as a juvenile book, but it is not. By the subject matters dealt with, such as suicide and desire, it is at least Young Adult, if not totally an adult work.
It is interesting to me that Gaiman started writing this work as a short story for his wife, Amanda Palmer. He started writing it as a way to, perhaps, explain who he is and why he is the way he is. It is a very personal story to him, one that is anchored around the edges to his own childhood. But it goes beyond that simple story to become a larger tale of people, the universe, and the way things operate. These subjects could come across as heavy handed except for they are approached from the innocence of this little boy, who is a bit lost and more than a bit brave at the same time.
If you are looking for a book of light and delight and happy endings, this is not what you need to be reading. But if you are want to explore some of life’s larger questions, delve into some of our more hidden emotions, and do so through the un-jaded mind of what might as well be an modern representation of the slightly nerdy, slightly outcast everyman, then this is it.
And now “Fortunately The Milk“.
This is a a thoroughly delightful little book. Not at all deep or dark like the previous title. It is aimed probably at ages 6 to 10? Sorry, I am not good at gauging kids books. But, this would make a great book to read out loud to kids. There are lots of fun places to do interesting voices and inflections on odd words. It maybe a bit long to read to them all the way through in one sitting, but there is a great breaking point exactly in the middle. And the illustrations, though all black and white, are fun to look at. You can find lots of tons of little hidden details.
If you have a young kid, or can find one to read to, this book is highly recommended. Or just read it for yourself. You are never too old for a good story book.