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.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?
Rooster crowing. Meadowlark.
Moon above the mountaintops.
(turn the page)
Loud alarm clock. Snoring stops.
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.