B is for Beer is one of the only books I’ve ever pre-ordered on Amazon. I read it and kind of shrugged- it’s the only Tom Robbins novel I’ve ever read that didn’t totally send me. So here’s what was missing: a kid. I stuffed it onto a top shelf in my son’s room, waiting for him to be old enough to be curious about beer, and a couple of weeks ago I took it down in a fit of desperation when he firmly refused to hear any more of The Neverending Story (“It’s too boring!”), fully expecting him to tire of it equally fast. He didn’t. We read the first chapter and he listened raptly and had a miniature conniption when I tried to set the book down. He worked me for another six chapters the first night- and kept begging for more. Instead of being bored by Tom Robbins’ pontifications, he was fascinated.
This “Childen’s Book for Grown-ups/Grown-up Book for Children” isn’t misrepresented in the least. The stage is set for a very educational lesson about beer’s history, creation and composition when five-year-old Gracie Perkel begins an inquiry on the subject. “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. Well, Gracie Perkel wondered those same things.” And so it begins. Mommy’s of little help in understanding it, so she asks her father himself, and then dear old Uncle Moe Babbano steps in to enlighten her on the subject. Finally, after a couple of minor setbacks on her quest to understand this adult favorite, the Beer Fairy comes and whisks Gracie off through “the Seam,” to visit a barley field, a brewery, a festival, and see firsthand both the good and bad results of beer, wrapping it all up neatly with a firm emphasis on drinking responsibly- and only when you become of age.
Robbins’ take on the taboo subject of beer for children follows: Children see beer commercials every time they watch a sporting event on TV. In the supermarket, they pass shelves and coolers overflowing with the stuff. Neon beer signs wink at them as they’re driven to school, to church or the mall. And, if their own parents and older siblings aren’t enjoying beer, then the parents and siblings of their friends surely are. Kids are constantly exposed to beer, it’s everywhere; yet, aside from wagging a warning finger and growling — true enough as far as it goes — “Beer is for grownups,” how many parents actually engage their youngsters on the subject? As a topic for detailed family discussion, it’s generally as taboo as sex. It’s a kind of largely unpremeditated side-stepping, and part of the reason is that most parents are themselves uninformed. Even if mommy and daddy have more than a clue about beer’s ingredients and how it’s brewed, they know nothing of its history, let alone the rich psychological, philosophical, and mythic associations bubbling beneath the surface of its wide appeal.(From Amazon.) This book would be an excellent read for any child that has a beer-drinking parent (or grandpa), especially if they read the book together. My five-year-old was fascinated until the end, and it opened the door for us to have a lot of meaningful and enlightening conversations that we might not have had for years.