Saturday, June 30

The Milkman

by Carol Foskett Cordsen
illustrated by Douglas B. Jones
Puffin paperback 2007

Hearkening back to another era, this picture book takes a warm-n-fuzzy look at a day in the life of the old fashioned door-to-door milkman. Told in terse clip-clop rhymes we follow Mr. Plimpton as he readies for and makes his daily deliveries in a town straight out of Robert McCloskey's Centerberg.

It begins with this disjointed opening:
First of morning, cold and dark.
Rooster crowing. Meadowlark.
Moon above the mountaintops.
(turn the page)
Loud alarm clock. Snoring stops.
I hate this break because it disturbs the flow of the opening rhythm. I hate that the break is made to better fit the placement of the illustrations. What's going on here? I shouldn't have such strong feelings against this book so immediately. A few pages later and the rhymes are back in sync but I'm still itching with something hinkey. Everything's chugging along, stops are made, a dog is lost (and will later be found), orders are taken, the sun is rising, the day begins and... what the?


Everything about this nostalgic trip has been pitch-perfect for the 1930's and 40's and all of a sudden you've got two women out for their morning jog in their pastel 1980's track suits. That's it, I'm out, you've lost me.

Who is a book like this for? I'm a late boomer/early gen x-er and I have only the faintest memories of delivery people that made the morning rounds. That little slice of life was pretty much gone before I even started school, and even then the milkman and grocery delivery boy felt dated to my sensibilities as a towheaded snot. In that light it seems to that this book, and every element that makes up this book, is calculated to appeal to grandparents who haven't got a clue what to buy their grandchildren.

Seriously. I think one could make a distinction between a period-centric adventure -- say Barbara McClintock's Adele and Simon which uses a pre-war Paris as a background but not as the primary focus of the story -- and the intentional design of The Milkman to separate people from their money based entirely an emotional appeal to some ersatz nostalgia.

It worked on me, for a moment. I was attracted to it's cover, because of some silent emotional promise that the illustration used as bait. But I quickly smelled the trap and managed to walk away without having to gnaw off my own leg.

Better luck next time.
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