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Uncle

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3.96  ·  Rating details ·  313 ratings  ·  29 reviews
If you think Babar is the only storybook elephant with a cult following, then you haven’t met Uncle, the presiding pachyderm of a wild fictional universe that has been collecting accolades from children and adults for going on fifty years. Unimaginably rich, invariably swathed in a magnificent purple dressing-gown, Uncle oversees a vast ramshackle castle full of friendly k ...more
Hardcover, 176 pages
Published July 10th 2007 by NYR Children's Collection (first published 1964)
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3.96  · 
Rating details
 ·  313 ratings  ·  29 reviews


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Susan
Nov 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: children, fans of classic children's books, stinky rotters

As a child, I adored the Uncle books, which chronicle the adventures of a fabulously wealthy and endearingly pompous elephant who rules over the vast and ramshackle kingdom of Homeward while wearing a purple dressing gown.

J.P. Martin’s descriptions of the ongoing battles between Uncle’s loyal followers and their enemies at Badfort capture perfectly the spirit of English schoolboys in which one side is continuously waging war against the other side, simply because they are the other side — and no

...more
Manny
Aug 08, 2010 rated it really liked it
Roughly, a comic version of Ayn Rand written for seven year olds. If you're an Objectivist parent or just want to explain the advantages of laissez-faire capitalism, get your kid started on it without delay.
__________________________

I had forgotten how funny this book is (I last read it when I was about eight). Other people may also appreciate the letter Uncle receives in Chapter 3 from the citizens of Badfort:
To Uncle, the arch-humbug, impostor, and bully.

Yesterday your worst deeds were out-don
...more
Graychin
Mar 22, 2012 rated it it was ok
I have to say that my eight-year-old son likes this a lot more than I do. Though he’s fabulously wealthy and lives in a Disneyland all his own, I found Uncle himself unlikeable. The constant introduction of new characters is exhausting. The unexplained our-team / their-team rivalry between Uncle’s friends at Homeward and the Badfort crowd carries weird capitalist/socialist overtones. For me, any comparison of Martin’s Uncle to the books of Roald Dahl and William Steig just falls flat.
Preeta
Jun 11, 2007 rated it it was amazing
I recommend this whole series very highly, if you can get your hands on it, but sadly, several of them are currently out of print. This first one was reissued only very recently, so there's hope. Uncle is a crazy Oxford-educated elephant and his best friend is a monkey. There is a thinly veiled (well, if you're an adult reader) anti-imperialist subtext and the illustrations are by Quentin Blake. What more could you want?!?
Nemo Erehwon
Aug 23, 2018 rated it liked it

Have you ever seen an eight-year-old create a story? They come up with an idea, then expound upon it, adding details in an emerging narrative stream of consciousness. Logic and reality take a backseat to the flow of the story and all those silly details.

J.P. Martin managed to channel his inner eight-year-old for this entertaining book.

It's about a fabulously wealthy elephant named Uncle who rules his house named Homeward, which is also a sky-scraper city. He is rich because of all the dwarves wh
...more
Tyler Jones
Jun 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: juvenile
An absolute treasure of a book. Originally published in 1964 and brought back into print by New York Review Books.

Uncle is a fabulously wealthy elephant whose home (appropriately called Homeward) is too big to be called a mansion, or even a castle; it is a city unto itself where some of the smaller towers are only thirty stories high. Uncles' wealth seems to come mainly from the rent he charges the inhabitants of Homeward- one shilling monthly, which isn't much but considering how many dwarfs a
...more
Judy
Nov 15, 2015 rated it did not like it
I admit I gave up half way through. Uncle is a mercurial and eccentric tyrant and I didn't like him or his empire one bit.

I think I lack the English Nonsense Appreciation Gene because I can't bear Spike Milligan's children's books either.

Perhaps it's the lack of actual connection between characters and way the seeming randomness of plot and detail suggest an absence of the writing craft that I admire in someone like Aiken.

Philip Ardagh has the eccentric nonsense flavour but uses it together w
...more
Barbara Barrett
Jan 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
I absolutely LOVED the Uncle books as a child .. which I took completely at face value at the age of 8 or so ( too long ago for me to remember precisely when I encountered them). So for instance, it didn't even dawn on me then that aside from being an elephant in a purple dressing gown, rather than being the hero of every hour, Uncle is actually a snobbish, pompous, benevolent tyrant. I've recently reread a couple of the stories and still find them hilarious, but probably for rather different re ...more
Eileen Parks
Jul 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: buried-classics
So much owed to J.P Martin by the likes of Dahl and Ian Fleming ( Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, not Bond!).

In Uncle's realm, you will meet eccentric villains who need the Hero, our beloved Uncle-- to fill their time with plans for mayhem and marauding-as much as the Hero needs them in order to conquer, vanquish and be heroic.

One of my standards for a fine children's book is, does the book begin with a map and or list of characters? Uncle has both. This is possibly the finest read-aloud ever for mult
...more
Arthur
Apr 07, 2009 rated it it was ok
What isn't there to like about a cult book by a methodist minister starring an insanely rich elephant in a purple dressing-gown?

I found out that there was plenty not to like about _Uncle_. All the way to the ending I was busy trying to pinpoint why it didn't meet with my expectations. I was supposed to enjoy this, and I didn't. Why?! What went wrong?

At first I thought it was me. Maybe I couldn't really get into the story, because I wasn't focused enough.
But then I realized that the fault is in
...more
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Jun 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kids-1001, children
Uncle is our 1001 Children's Books You Must Read book group's latest read. It's a book that never appeared on my radar until I saw it on this list. It's a story, I suspect, that kids will love more than adults, but, as I'm the rare adult who hasn't quite grown up yet, I adored it. Uncle is an elephant and he and his friends are fighting a constant guerrilla war with a group of his enemies who are jealous of Uncle's power and influence and riches. It's very, very fun, with each group pranking the ...more
Michael
A book that delights in sheer anarchy. Just look at how it begins: "Uncle is an elephant. He's immensely rich, and he's a BA. He dresses well, generally in a purple dressing-gown, and often rides about on a traction engine, which he prefers to a car." And after this paragraph, the novel gets strange. Hilarious and original and, well, it's a shame it's out of print save in a snooty NYR of Books edition.
Ant
Sep 11, 2017 rated it it was ok
I wasn't entirely convinced that this is a children's classic. Perhaps it was the enthusiasm with which I was urged to read it that made me expect more. It might be an entirely different experience reading it to a child.
I just didn't care what happened to any of the characters and didn't really find any of the adventures particularly interesting.
Beth Nieman
Oct 11, 2009 rated it liked it
Crazy fun with wicked villains like Beaver Hateman who live in Badfort, Uncle the Elephant who lives in a castle so large he hasn't seen all of it, and fun minor characters like Old Monkey and Goodman the cat. Love the illustrations by Quentin Blake.
Charlotte
A fun little book with many opportunities for teachable moments. A very English book in terms of aristocracy and class. I could see kids rooting for the the Hatemen as they are such a loveable "enemy".
Flora
Nov 29, 2013 added it
Shelves: kidlit
This book is the reason I got VERY confused about "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." as a child.
Kimberly
Jun 02, 2010 marked it as to-read
Part of the New York Review Children's Collection.
Macklin
Jan 15, 2014 rated it liked it
I found this very entertaining. I love Homeward and Old Monkey.
Ellen
Mar 11, 2016 rated it it was ok
As a fan of works like Alice in Wonderland, Phantom Tollbooth, and The 13 Clocks, I expected to love this one, but it just fell flat for me.
Dean Lloyd
Mar 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
My favourite book growing up, a fantastical adventure. I loved every moment. It really fired my imagination and really started my affection for reading.
Barbara
Nov 21, 2007 rated it liked it
Didn't love this as much as I'd hoped.
Shannon
Jan 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Still own my childhhod copy - its comfort reading thst I retrun to regularly.
Julia
Nov 20, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2008, middlegrade
Right now it's helping to further my pachyderm painting state of mind.
Suzanne
Nov 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
To call this a children's book is to completely misrepresent both this book and children's books. It is social satire of the highest level. Martin, a Methodist minister, seems to have never forgotten what it was to be a boy at an English boarding school. The situations and devices and characters come straight from the imaginings of a 9-year-old boy and his friends, as they devise ever more complicated, unlikely and outrageous plots, inventions, and motives.

Uncle himself is a outsized English co
...more
Justine Laismith
Nov 08, 2018 rated it did not like it
The illustrations were by Quentin Blake. The blurb and the first chapter suggested it might be quirky like Roald Dahl. Somehow this book didn't work for me. I tried and persevered until halfway but really could not get into the story. It was bizzarre; just a character with no specific mission. We read about his daily or regular activities, and his anatagonists' antics but I didn't know where the story was going. I got confused as there was so many characters with such strange names. I could not ...more
Amber Scaife
May 01, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
A rich elephant riches it up while also being irritated by his poor, trashy neighbors. How is this a fun book for kids, again? The only redeeming quality = the illustrations by Quentin Blake.
Chris Browning
May 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
In essence, Gormenghast for kids but with a wonderfully absurd streak and some lovely, darker tinges to the bad guys. One of the greatest books ever written
Jan1243
Apr 18, 2019 rated it liked it
I can see how children might really enjoy this book. It really wasn’t my style. Too fantastic and frenetic. But cute for all that!
Sarah
Aug 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
With the same sense of childlike surrealism exemplified by Roald Dahl, Uncle’s stories are a series of simple morality tales, cleverly disguised as bizarre and hilarious adventures. Uncle’s ever-expansive home, Homeward, provides plenty of opportunities for strange and wonderful characters; and his evil neighbors, the Hatemans, provide a perfect counterpoint by which children can learn humility, generosity and gentleness. Seeing as Uncle was originally sprung from Martin’s imagination as bedtime ...more
Christina Packard
rated it liked it
Jun 17, 2018
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

J.P. Martin (1879-1966) was born in Yorkshire into a family of Methodist ministers. He took up the family vocation, serving when young as a missionary to a community of South African diamond miners and then, during the First World War, as an Army chaplain in Palestine and Egypt, before returning to minister to
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