Going back to the well here with another kid's title. Well, sort of a kids title. B I For Beer is illustrated and written by beloved funny man Tom Robbins and it makes the list of top 31 books.
If a lover of beer you know is without this book then you know what you need to do.
B Is For Beer by Tom Robbins. Illustrated by the author. Ecco Books. Hardcover. $14.95. Childrens/Humor/Beer. By clicking on the picture above and purchasing the book you support the Devil's Accountant.
Gracie Perkel is five-years-old (well nearly, almost, practically six) and on one august Saturday (in Seattle where it always drizzles) she resolves to tackle one of life’s most essential questions.
“Mommy,” Gracie asked one afternoon, “what’s that stuff Daddy drinks?”
After some fencing with her daughter (telling her not to describe someone’s drink as looking like pee-pee) Mrs. Perkel sends her off to ask her father. After all, who would know better what it was that he drinks.
Except her father doesn’t really want too much to do with Gracie. He’s watching a University of Washington football game and lacks the interest to answer her questions past the simple answer of, “Beer.” Lucky for Gracie, her somewhat flaky though always humanely philosophical Uncle Moe is on hand. Not only does Uncle Moe (the “Moester” ) give Gracie a complete lesson on beer nature, production and history, but he also lets young (almost six mind you) Gracie take a swig from his glass.
Despite the bitterness, Gracie is intrigued. What ensues is one of the strangest children’s books written. Through the didacticism of Uncle Moe (a man with dozens of degrees and no discernable job) Gracie learns to think outside of the box, stand up for herself and, most of all, just about everything about beer. For instance, her Uncle Moe explains to Gracie that when he comes back in his next life he’d like to be reincarnated as a vinegar eel. These eels, he explains, live on the remaining spilt off mugs in Germany.
Your humble reviewer had to go to the Wikipedia well to look into this one. Sure enough: Vinegar eels. Tom Robbins (Still Life With Woodpecker, Jitterbug Perfume) newest book is as funny and unconventional as the rest of his celebrated novels. In a remarkably insightful manner he observes through the story of Gracie Perkel the nature of how children learn, giving prominence to those random magical moments where something (often left by a character like Uncle Moe) quite random leads to childhood’s most memorable moments.
The unconventional subject of beer becomes a backdrop for truly American family experiences. The depth Robbins plumbs into the way children feel about things is impressive. This is all made doubly impressive with the educational (learning about beer is important, parents – from chemistry to ancient history) aspects of the tale, let alone the typical Robbinsesque humor laced throughout. Softened though. Robbins transforms the humor into one that is as tender as it is sarcastic. A not easy feat.
This is not a book to buy and give to a child. This is a book for adults, or adults to read to their children. I will warn you though: you will be asked questions about many subjects we typically label as “touchy.” This might be Robbins greatest achievement in this small, fun book. It forces a dialogue between parents and children about the those odd, often overlooked topics. I would hope that parents would feel comfortable, capable enough to answer these questions, vinegar eels and all.