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Uncle    by J. P. Martin & Quentin Blake order for
by J. P. Martin
Order:  USA  Can
New York Review, 2007 (2007)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

This collection of the adventures of J. P. Martin's beloved pachyderm Uncle is a welcome addition to The New York Review Children's Collection, and Quentin Blake's antic illustrations set the mood perfectly. This affable elephant 'is immensely rich, and he's a B.A. He dresses well, generally in a purple dressing-gown, and often rides about on a traction engine, which he prefers to a car.' He lives at Homeward which is like 'about a hundred skyscrapers all joined together and surrounded by a moat with a drawbridge over it'.

The only fly in the ointment in generous Uncle's comfortable existence (though one that also provides a stimulating relief from boredom) is the fact that enemies, the Bads, led by Beaver Hateman, live nearby in 'a vast derelict pile where all the windows are broken and the doors have been used for firewood.' In addition to feasting, and fending off the villains' duck bombs, Uncle and his associates spend a great deal of time exploring his own extensive estate, in ways that display the author's impressive imagination - for example, there's a water merry-go-round, an iron dive facilitated by springs, and a salmon ladder (climbed in bathing suits).

There are all kinds of wonderfully quirky characters from the benevolent (and only slightly pompous) Uncle himself to aging schoolboy Noddy Ninety, and the dwarfs who 'live in the top storeys' of Homeward. Children and adults alike can enjoy sharing Uncle's adventures and rejoicing in his regular defeats (with a few close shaves) of the Bads.

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