A couple of years ago I had never heard of Tom Robbins before, and the few times I have mentioned him to fellow readers I always get asked "Tom who?" so you are forgiven if you yourself have never heard of this fun author.
According to Wikipedia, he is American, and his novels are generally funny whimsical stories about current affairs, often approaching them from a new direction. His most well known story is 'Even Cowgirls Get The Blues' mainly because it was turned into a film in the early nineties, though the previous work I have heard of (and have on my bookshelf, though haven't read yet) is 'Still Life With Woodpecker'.
B is for Beer is his latest story, and is touted as a "Children's Book for Grownups - A Grown-up Book for Children" which really is the perfect description of the story. Robbins has in this short little ditty managed to perfectly capture the essence of children's fiction, and then approach an adult topic which is both fun and serious. Something which I am personally very impressed by.
The story follows Gracie Perkel, a young girl aged six who is curious about the great god that is Beer. Gracie is inquisitive, as all young children are, and observes beer's effect on the adults around her and wants to give it a go herself. After a particularly disappointing day she does, and gets a visit and a lesson from the Beer fairy. The story goes on to not only tell the reader all about the creation of beer in an approachable way, but also discusses the social effects beer has and the negative aspects of the behaviour that can be caused by the substance.
In essence, Robbins has managed to approach quite possibly the worlds favourite drink in a similar way to Dickens's 'A Christmas Carol' and he does so marvelously with a great sense of humour.
While I certainly wouldn't give this book to a six year old, a teenager would find it interesting and fun, and adults can read and reminisce about their first taste of beer (mine was from a tiny tankard that said "for little boozers" on it, I kid you not!). The story also focuses upon several morals, as the beer fairy tells Gracie "Bravery that comes from a bottle...lacks the full strength and purity of bravery that comes straight from the heart" we are provoked into thinking about the effect that Beer has on society. The book also manages to be quite informative, providing basic information about the fermentation process and history of beer in a lighthearted and easy to grasp medium. While the tone is obviously geared towards giving an adult a giggle, the illustrations throughout are bold and simple, and remind me of sixties illustrations from books I have inherited from my parents.
I definitely think this is worth a read, and if you are ever stuck and want a quick story to brighten your day I say pop to the local bookshop or library and grab this from the shelf, you might just find yourself with a smile on your face :)
★★★★ and a good dose of chuckling!