Eleven-year-old Duncan Peckle lives a pleasant but uneventful life in his hometown of Mt. Geranium. That is, until Uncle Dudley unexpectedly arrives for a long visit one summer and moves into the third-floor guest room. He's a bachelor who eats like a horse but never buys groceries, much to the dismay of Duncan's father.

Uncle Dudley is also a world traveler who makes "great voyages" and is supposedly the author of a mysterious book published only in Japan, with the original manuscript lost at sea. Duncan is thrilled by the newcomer, especially when he's left in Uncle Dudley's care while his parents go traveling. His admiration is firmly sealed when he discovers a shrunken head on Uncle Dudley's bed.

Dudley is exuberant, wild and wacky, and before long magical events start occurring Uncle Dudley nearly disappears, with only part of his body showing, Duncan mistakenly turns a neighbor into a statue, and goblins turn up. There's a bit of magic and sorcery in this book, but the main ingredient is comedy.

The real fun begins when a bookseller gives Duncan and Dudley an antique Japanese book called the Bubble Riders of Old Nanking. Before you can say Boo, the pair launch a plot to ride their own giant bubbles through the sky, and they manage to do so, only things don't go exactly as planned.

Things never seem to go as planned when Uncle Dudley is involved. In fact, his escapades always seem to fail, and Duncan starts to have serious doubts about his uncle. Never fear, however, more wild romps ensue for Dudley and Duncan, despite the boy's worries.

Here's a book with enough plot and sophistication to appeal to the best of readers, but with simple enough prose to be accessible to readers of varying levels of ability. Duncan narrates this tale in a lively, breezy fashion, sounding every bit like an 11-year-old boy, complete with a multitude of exclamation points. My Curious Uncle Dudley is Barry Yougrau's first book for kids, and they're sure to appreciate his penchant for the bizarre. Tony Auth's drawings add greatly to the book's liveliness, bringing to life the hilarious comic missteps that occur.

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