Author Matthew Mehan speaks at the Allan P. Kirby Center for Con­sti­tu­tional Studies and States­manship in Wash­ington, D.C. | Ben Diet­derich

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.”