Mervyn Peake (1911 – 1968) first sparked my interest when I watched a very bizarre, yet intriguing BBC adaption of his Titus Groan and Gormenghast novels.
I happened across Letters from a Lost Uncle while searching for more of his works, but, unfortunately, this book is out of print. I found a copy on the Internet, but you may be able to obtain one at your local library or used bookstore.
The format of this story is very original. Peake drew all the illustrations himself–one on each page–and then overlaid each with a section of typed text (and sometimes a handwritten note). This effect makes the feel of a journal even more realistic.
A man, lost in the frozen polar wastes, sits in his igloo, hunched over a typewriter, and hacks away at the keys. Why? Because he is writing a journal for his nephew. You might think that this is a nice thing to do, however the explorer makes it clear that he hates doing it, and the only reason he is — is to have someone keep a record of his adventure.
After the loss of his igloo, he escapes on a kayak to continue his adventure of locating the mysterious White Lion, who apparently no one but himself believes exists. The man’s only companion is a tortoise-like mutant, named Jackson, who he has harmlessly hammered several nails in the back of his shell so that the creature can carry the man’s things; including his typewriter.
Facing many frightening obstacles, the adventurer records each event while providing an explanation of his impossible escapes. In addition, he shares a little backstory for his nephew so that the boy can have some understanding of where he’s coming from.
This is a very creative story. I would not call it a page turner, but I would say that it kept my interest. I particularly liked the various coffee spills and such that Jackson caused to the man’s illustrations, and the visible spelling and grammar corrections, which made it all the more convincing.
Things to consider:
I really don’t see anything that would be considered offensive. My guess is that a six-year-old would be okay with this, boy or girl, but probably more so for a boy.
Opportunities for discussion:
I would say that passion and desire are both good discussion topics to bring up with your kids. Talk about the benefits and consequences of the actions of this man, and how passion can both be a good motivator and destructive force in a person’s life, depending on the situation.