The Adventures of Uncle Lubin

Full of whimsical charm, The Adventure of Uncle Lubin, present one of literature’s most guileless and sincere characters. With his comically floppy hat and striped baggy stockings, gentle, serious Uncle Lubin is left in charge of his beloved nephew Peter. One fateful day, a great Bagbird swoops down while Uncle Lubin is innocently napping, whisks away the screaming child in his beak, and flies to the moon.

Deeply horrified by the unexpected turn of affairs, Uncle Lubin nonetheless recognizes his duty as Peter’s guardian and sets out on a series of adventures to deliver the child from the wretched bag-bird, searching high and low (literally) for the kidnapped child. His ingenuity proves boundless: he builds an air-ship to follow the bird to the moon (using his hat as a parachute to descend); he invents a submersible sea-boat to search for Peter among the mer-men and mer-children of the deep; he kills a sea-serpent by putting salt on its tail (which we all know is the only way to kill a sea-serpent). He even melts an iceberg with a candle to reach the wicked bag-bird perched mockingly on top. Eventually, little Peter and Uncle Lubin are reunited in this playful classic that reads as well today as when it was first published in England in 1902.

These fantastic adventures are inextricably entwined with Robinson’s detailed pen-and-ink drawing and playfully arranged text depicting, among other things, Uncle Lubin’s remarkable inventions and contraptions. Robinson had a profound affection for the ridiculous, and was a genius at sensitively and inventively depicting the absurd. Readers will be enchanted by this revival, a book whose style and illustrations recall an era when children’s books were delightful, inventive, and imaginative.

William Heath Robinson was born in London to a family of illustrators; his father and three brothers all worked in the field. William was known for his drawings of fantastically complicated machines to carry out simple tasks. His machine cartoons were so popular that any complicated or makeshift machine might be called “Heath Robinson contraptions” in World War I parlance. Several such contraptions appear in his best-loved children’s book, The Adventures of Uncle Lubin.