Saturday, August 3, 2013

Book Review: The Twits

Title: The Twits
Author: Roald Dahl
Genre: Fantasy, Animals, Children's Fiction
My Rating: *
Official Rating: Children's Fiction
Age Group: 10+
Summary: Mr. and Mrs. Twit are not nice people. No, not at all. They're ugly, mean to each other, always playing tricks, and they force their monkeys to stand on their heads all day long. They even paint their trees with glue to catch birds for bird pie. And when little boys are caught, well, they're not above that either.
It seems like they will keep getting away with these terrible things. When all seems lost, Roly-Poly Bird arrives and, with the help of Muggle-Wump, teach the Twits a lesson.

Word of Warning:
Honestly, this book disappointed me. It was fully of petty nastiness. I guess that should be expected from a book titled The Twits. Here are the highlights:
  • Dahl starts out by bashing men with beards and complaining of bits of food getting stuck in a beard.
  • Mrs. Twit is dubbed fearfully ugly with crooked teeth. She carries a walking stick to smack children and dogs with. She was not originally ugly, but had ugly thoughts, which turned her ugly. She has a glass eye.
  • Mrs. Twit takes her glass eye out and puts it in her husband's beer to frighten him. Mr. Twit calls her an old hag.
  • Mr. Twit puts a frog in Mrs. Twit's bed, telling her that it is going to eat her (she's not aware that it's a frog).
  • Mrs. Twit puts worms in Mr. Twit's spaghetti. He eats it, commenting on the strange texture/flavor.
  • Mr. Twit tricks Mrs. Twit into thinking she has what he calls the shrinking disease. He claims she only has a short time left before she shrinks down into nothing but a pile of old clothes.
  • Mr. Twit tries to send his wife off forever by tying her to balloons and setting her free. She returns, landing right on top of him and hitting him with her stick violently.
  • The Twits abuse their monkeys, making them stand on their heads always. They also capture birds to eat.
  • The Twits catch little boys by accident instead of birds and, annoyed that they will have no bird pie, decide to have boy pie. The boys escape without their pants.
  • The Twits go off to buy guns and shoot birds.
  • The monkeys escape and take revenge. Eventually, the Twits are trapped upside down on their heads for too long and shrink into their old clothes, ending up as nothing. Even the mailman is happy about this.

My Thoughts
The whole book is filled with nastiness. Small things, sure, but still nasty. The Twits are always fighting and playing tricks on each other that aren't even funny. The monkeys are granted revenge, which eventually results in the death of the Twits (the word death is not used, but that's essentially what happens). Dahl spends the first chapter ranting about beards and how awful they are.
And yet, for an older reader such as myself, it was a pleasantly fast read and rather funny. At first. Someone clearly had fun coming up with all these tricks and I found myself laughing at the absolute craziness of it all. I also had a soft spot for the moment where Dahl explains why Mrs. Twit is ugly, and how a woman who does not have ugly thoughts will never be able to become ugly.
But what a price to pay for that laugh and that scene about ugliness. Is it worth it?
I think it was a bit expensive.


grandma jane said...

Love your ending comment about this read being "a bit expensive". I'd have to agree with you and would not keep this one on my shelf.
But I must add that some kids (at school) loved it, claiming it was very funny. I guess if all they took away from this story is the message-- that if you feel good or bad about yourself inside it will show on the outside, then perhaps it was worth the read for them.
How sad though....

Maria Gianna said...

Grandma Jane,
Thank you! I admit I was a bit disappointed in this book having read some of his other stuff. It was pretty funny, and one of the messages was really great, but I think the rest of it was just too much to sacrifice for that.
Still, I'll admit it was a fun read :)