Gracie Perkel is just weeks short of her sixth birthday when she asks the wrong person the wrong question. In short, her question is "What's the big deal with beer?" which she asks her Mommy, mostly because her Daddy and her Uncle Moe (the uncle with the tragic moustache) seem to like it so much. That's even though her first two teensy sips taste "Icky!" and "Double-Icky!" respectively.
When events conspire to ruin Gracie's long-anticipated sixth birthday party, the little lady decides to celebrate like a grown-up: two cans of beer go in her tummy and a third gets launched at her birthday cake; then she goes upstairs to dance and spin around in her bedroom. After she cleans up the inevitable Technicolor yawn, Gracie drifts into a woozy sleep; whereupon she receives a visitation. Ladies and Gentlemen, presenting... the Beer Fairy!
Gracie and her friendly neighborhood Fairy take a magic journey; in which our diminutive heroine learns how to spell "wort," how to malt barley, and the meaning of "liquid courage." More importantly, she learns that beer is a magical beverage that, if ingested in precisely the right amount, allows the rare grownup to peer through the veil that separates our world from the next. Nevertheless, Gracie's in for some serious flack from Mom when she sees the semi-digested chocolate cake stains on that Hello Kitty rug.
And just what is a tragic moustache?
In case the pure goofiness of the story line of B Is for Beer hadn't already given away the author's identity, the name Tom Robbins should make the last pieces fall into place. Following in the wobbly footsteps of Madonna and Jamie Lee Curtis and the more ordered paces of the likes of Carl Hiaasen, Robbins has now written his first children's book; a children's book about beer. There may never have been more unlikely topic for a children's book, but on the other hand, who better to write about something so outrageous than the madcap redhead himself, author of Still Life with Woodpecker and Even Cowgirls Get the Blues (among MANY others).
If you still don't get the point, the cover of B Is for Beer also reveals that Robbins' work is "A Grown-up Book for Children," while at the same time it's "A Children's Book for Grown-ups." Robbins is, of course, joking: B Is for Beer is a children's book for grown-ups, but it's only a grown-up book for children if you're counting your inner child (who will be, I suspect, absolutely delighted).
Robbins' little novella (a mere 125 pages) is as silly and as thought-provoking as any of his full-length novels, down to Gracie's sing-sing chant of "Hi-de-ho!" ("Oh-oh, Spaghetti-o," anyone?). The Robbinsesque text is accompanied by a set of charming pen-and-ink drawings from Robbins buddy Les LePere, who manages to make it pretty obvious that the Beer Fairy is a redhead... naturally.
Being that this is Tom Robbins writing, you're probably expecting some goofy relationships (got ‘em) a free spirit or two (yup!) and the author's trademark sideswipe relationship with mysticism and historical fantasy (it's in there). Robbins shows the results of some interesting research; research that didn't necessarily involve looking through the bottom of a glass - factoids about beer that most people toting around a suitcase of cans never thought to wonder about; facts like how beer is made and who first made it, for instance... perhaps B Is for Beer is a children's book - it is, after all educational! And that's in addition to being fun and funny and just a little heartwarming.
Recommended age: 21 and up (statutorily defined)