After previewing the first chapter two years ago in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Tom Robbins follows up his 2005 anthology Wild Ducks Flying Backward with the release of B Is for Beer. It is billed as both “A Children’s Book for Grown-ups” and “A Grown-up Book for Children,” but it is directed at children, and their grandfathers presumed to be reading it to them. Robbins helps unravel the mysteries of the ubiquitous beverage that likely raises questions in a young mind like the ones that open the book:
Have you ever wondered why your daddy likes beer so much? Have you wondered, before you fall asleep at night, why he sometimes acts kind of "funny" after he's been drinking beer? Maybe you've even wondered where beer comes from, because you're pretty sure it isn't from a cow.
Kindergartner Gracie Perkel is the main character, and Robbins foreshadows trouble on the horizon as her father misses her birthday on a business trip to Tucson. She knew it was a business trip, “because otherwise why would he have taken his secretary along?”
More disappointments present themselves, such as her zany Uncle Moe blowing off their trip to the Red Hook Brewery because that afternoon he runs off to live in Costa Rica with his podiatrist. Left alone in the house while her mother talked to a neighbor over the backyard fence, Gracie decides to drown her sorrow in a can of beer. Though Robbins warns kids not to try this at home and Gracie barfing on her Hello Kitty rug certainly isn’t pleasant, he did make drinking appealing because Gracie is visited by the Beer Fairy, who takes her on adventures through The Seam.
B Is for Beer is amusing with its strength being Robbins’ wit and use of language. The characters that are intended to be enjoyable are, and I particularly liked his turn of phrase about humans being “free-flowing meat waves of possibility.” However, this may only be of interest to beer drinkers as a good portion of it features the Beer Fairy explaining different aspects, from its creation to its influence, including the negatives such as alcoholism. The book also has dark moments, which may be too much for young child reading as the story deals with divorce and two drunk men with ill intentions chasing after a maiden. If you would let a child taste beer under your supervision, then they could handle the book.