Publishers used to say, “If you read only one book this year, make it this one.” Gaiman has tried to write the only book anyone will need, ever, packing into it every adventure story written in the past 300 years.
The book seems to include every plot on TVTropes.org. There’s a time machine. There are “wumpires” and pirates. The story is simple: A father goes to the store to buy milk. The only trouble is, he’s kidnapped by aliens, and by the end of the book, he’s being threatened by dancing dwarfs. Sometimes the book feels like a personal bet between the writer and the illustrator: “But can you draw this?” Young is always up to the challenge, no matter what gets thrown at him. He makes pirates look both dangerous and adorable. But once in a while, readers may wish that the author would stop throwing things. The best scene in the book is brief and quiet. The father asks a time-traveling stegosaurus where all the dinosaurs went. “The stars,” professor Steg says. “That is where we will have gone.”
Frenetic as the story is, it’s hard not to love a novel that borrows equally from Calvin and Hobbes and The Usual Suspects. If you read only one book this year, a story with dancing dwarfs is always a wise choice. (Adventure. 8-12)