The complete set of Uncle books, by J.P Martin and illustrated by Sir Quentin Blake, is being re-published in a deluxe high-quality hardback, with a wealth of extra material, including articles by Neil Gaiman, Will Self and Kate Summerscale. Uncle is an kind-hearted elephant who lives in an endlessly massive castle, accompanied by his motley crew of companions and employees, including the Old Monkey, Goodman the Cat, the One-Armed Badger and many more. Near his castle sits Badfort, home of Uncle's enemies, a disreputable group including Hateman, Jellytussle, Hitmouse and other unpleasant characters. Over the course of the books, Uncle and his followers find themselves mixed up with camels, dwarfs, treacle, bears, ghosts, a walrus, a singing flower, wizards, Respectable Horses and much, much more. Although the books were intended for children, they are loved by an adult audience for their wordplay, subversive and surreal humour and wonderful drawings. They are one of the great forgotten treasures of children's literature, and this is the first opportunity to buy the complete set since the early seventies. This deluxe 800-page hardback edition contains the full text of all six books, and all of the illustrations from Sir Quentin Blake. There are also articles by famous fans, contemporary reviews, an eight-page colour section showcasing the original cover art and much more. The anthology includes: Uncle, Uncle Cleans Up, Uncle and His Detective, Uncle and the Treacle Trouble, Uncle and Claudius the Camel, and Uncle and the Battle for Badgertown.
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J. P. Martin was born in Scarborough in 1880, the son and grandson of Methodist ministers. He had no great ambition to have his Uncle books published. To begin with they were not books, just stories which he used to tell his children in his deep Yorkshire voice, chuckling unashamedly at his own jokes. It was only when his children were grown up that he was persuaded to write them down, and it was his daughter who became determined that they should reach a wider audience and started submitting them to publishers. The books, with their anarchic spirit, were ahead of their time and it took twenty years before they finally appeared in print. Intriguingly, one publisher rejected the books on the grounds that they were amoral and said Uncle was 'a fascist' whereas The Listener, reviewing the first book, said "Uncle is a savage attack on a capitalist society." His daughter thinks of Uncle, the rich benefactor of all his neighbours, as the fantasy of a poor man, her father, who spent most of his life in slums longing but unable to alleviate the poverty by which he was surrounded. Whatever his motives, the author himself was unconscious of them. "Lots of it came to me in dreams," he said. "I would come downstairs in the morning and remember what I had been dreaming about - and there was another chapter." The author seems not to have been greatly affected by publication. "When your work is your calling," he said, "you don't worry much about anything else." Even so, he was obviously delighted by the visits of local reporters and the BBC and, in particular, the children who came to see him. In all, six Uncle books were published in the series, the last in 1973, seven years after his death.Review:
"AMAZING. It will be a fantastic book" -- Neil Gaiman "I think Uncle stuck with me because of its combination of excess, gadgetry and eccentricity - all of which are modes of being I have attempted to emulate in my adult life. I blame J.P. Martin." -- Will Self "Uncle is an utterly indulgent book, which veers recklessly between the childish and the sophisticated: it is violent, anar-chic and soft-hearted." -- Kate Summerscale "A riot of nonsense and adventure, may well become a classic in the great English nonsense tradition." -- Observer "You ask any class 'Who's heard of Alice in Wonderland ' and up goes a forest of hands. Uncle is on the same level and should be more widely read and enjoyed." -- Junior Bookshelf Magazine
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