WASHINGTON, D.C. — At first glance, “Mr. Mehan’s Mildly Amusing Mythical Mammals”, known for short as “M5,” looks like the type of book you would find in an elementary school library. Yet author Matthew Mehan claims it’s a book for the whole family.
On the evening of Sept. 5, Mehan sat down with Hillsdale journalism professor John Miller to discuss his new book. The discussion took place at the Hillsdale College Allan P. Kirby Center for Constitutional Studies and Statesmanship in Washington, D.C., where Mehan serves as a lecturer of English. More than 75 Hillsdale College students, alumni, and friends attended.
Mehan is also a teacher at The Heights School, an independent day school for boys located in Washington, D.C.
“M5,” which was released on Aug. 15, uses Mehan’s poetry and illustrator John Folley’s colorful oil paintings to tell the tale of two mythical creatures, “Dally and the Blug,” as they travel in search of a solution for sadness. On their journey, they encounter 26 other mythical mammals, one for each letter of the alphabet.
Mehan’s book has already been praised by several literary critics, including New York Times best-selling novelist Keith Donohue. Donohue is quoted on Amazon saying, “Mr. Mehan’s Mammals will knock your socks off, parent or child, and teach you PDQ how to dream again.”
During the Kirby Center discussion, Mehan explained the roots of his desire to write a book for the whole family.
“In our time, there is a robbing of the family and its time together,” Mehan said. “I wanted a book where adults could read to children and every member of the family would get something out of the book. That’s opposed to today where everything is divided and just things like television are a shared activity.”
Mehan added that he hopes writers and rhetors can learn from the book as well.
“Part of the poetic arts and the rhetorical arts that would be great to recapture for free society, free government, and the republican self-government of the United States would be the habit of knowing how to talk to a variety of levels at one time,” Mehan said in his discussion. “I wanted to lead by example and try to do that. Kids are going to get fun, amusing, nonsense poems, adolescents are going to see that there’s wordplay, structure, and an interesting craft going on. Then a little older than that, high school students and above, are going to see serious themes of psychology, politics, and truth.”
Hillsdale alumna, Margaret Smith, ’15, attended the event.
“I came out because I’ve always had a fascination with poetry and poetics,” Smith said. “Seeing how he was able to blend poetics with illustration and bring it all back to Western heritage was fascinating.”
John Abbey, a D.C. resident and local businessmen said he was glad he finally accepted one of Hillsdale’s invitations to attend an event at the Kirby Center.
“I come from a science, engineering, and business background,” Abbey said. “Sometimes there’s just so much happening in the world. After tonight, I wish I knew more about poetry and philosophy.”
Mehan will be promoting his book on a tour across the United States later this month. He is expected to stop in Hillsdale to deliver a lecture at the college’s central campus in Michigan on September 13 at 4 p.m. in Kendall Hall, with a reception following at Rough Draft.
“Hearing a creative describe how he used the liberal arts in this way was exciting,” said another Hillsdale Alumna Grace DeSandro, ’17, in attendance. “It’s something you rarely see in publishing and I’m excited to see others follow in his footsteps.”