In this book, Paul Nowak has gathered biographical details and anecdotes about Chesterton into short stories about "Uncle Chestnut" as a means of introducing Chesterton to young readers. This slim paperback volume includes four of these stories, and is intended to be the first in a series of tales about eccentric Uncle Chestnut, as told by his nephew.
I read this book out loud to my daughters, ages 8 and 10. The book opens with a rather rambling introduction to the narrator's uncle, which told rather than showed much of the information presented and led to my younger daughter's asking, after several pages, "Is something exciting going to happen soon?" Despite the slow beginning, they enjoyed the book, although they wished for more illustrations. Their favorite story was "The Easy Job," in which the two children learn a lesson they won't soon forget.
I found the setting to be a bit confusing. At first it seemed set in Chesterton's time, with the trains and the hat he wore, but then there were modern references - to Indiana Jones and American Idol, for example - that seemed at odds to the late 19th-century, early 20th-century tone of the beginning of the book. One chapter, however, sparked an interesting discussion with my children. Uncle Chestnut scoffs at the notion of "believing in oneself" as a means to achieve success, pointing out the foolish hopefuls who perform on American Idol and make idiots out of themselves because, while they indeed have belief in themselves, they are utterly lacking in talent. Instead, he says, it is important to believe in something more important than oneself in order to truly make a difference. It's always a good thing when a book engenders discussion about things that matter.
This book is clearly a labor of love on the part of the author, Paul Nowak. Here is an interview with the him at Starting Fresh, and another at One Person's Journey through a World of Books.
The Inconvenient Adventures of Uncle Chestnut: Based on the Life and Works of G.K. Chesterton by Paul Nowak (Paul Nowak, 2009)
Also reviewed at:
In the Shadow of Mount TBR: "...it’s very much a needed book and voice of wisdom and reason that could tip the balance a little more toward sanity than it’s been leaning lately."
A Reader's Journal: "This is a book that I will reread many times. One time uplifted my spirits and taught me much, but I will needed to be reminded frequently."
Starting Fresh: "While the book wasn't to my taste, I expect that it will appeal to many children and parents."