by Steve Sandler
Rob Cunningham, illustrator
THE SHORTER REVIEW
What the Story is About: My Uncle Rob is a memoir. The author takes us into a life changed by a chronic ailment called Parkinson’s disease. Uncle Rob was a restaurateur the day his hand started shaking. It was still shaking days later and continued when one of his feet began to shake. A neurologist diagnosed Uncle Rob with Parkinson’s disease that progressively reduced his ability to move and will worsen with time. Uncle Rob had to sell his beloved Uptown Café and lead as stress-free a life as possible. Using some of Uncle Rob’s paintings, the author takes us along on a journey of discovery and a different way of looking at the world.
What I thought: My Uncle Rob is not a traditional children’s picture book. A young Steve Sandler narrates this short memoir of his friend “Uncle Rob.” I loved the story of Uncle Rob’s transformation from a busy, stressed out restaurateur—albeit a successful owner—to a world-renown artist. I especially find endearing the way Steve tells the story. Each page shows one of Uncle Rob’s paintings and Steve uses it to tell the story in simple, short sentences.
After a neurological evaluation and Parkinson’s disease diagnosis, Uncle Rob sells his beloved restaurant and begins trying to live a stress-free life. He turns to painting, a lifelong ambition, to help distress his life. Each painting has strong colors, interesting shapes, and sometimes objects that did not belong. Animals were bizarre combinations and landscapes were nothing like the original.
My Uncle Rob is a beautifully illustrated book, all painted by the subject of this mini memoir, Mr. Rob Cunningham. Is there is message in My Uncle Rob; something that kids can learn? Yes. For one, no matter what happens life goes on so make the best of yours. Two, what seems to be a tragedy can turn into a treat. I think kids will enjoy the paintings, find their own messages in the story, but would be best to sit down with a parent or close adult when reading for the first time. I image they will have many questions.