I’ve always enjoyed the books of the late Roald Dahl, and indeed Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is still one of my favourite books even now. Roald Dahl has a way of writing that just appeals to kids because of all the larger than life characters he creates. Whilst the cast of his stories might be weird and wonderful, they are still somehow believable.
The Twits was the first book to be published by Dahl in the 1980’s, and one of the first to be illustrated by Quentin Blake. Indeed I believe Mr. Blake has gone back to most if not all of Dahl’s childrens books and reillustrated them in his sketchy style, which for most of the books is an ideal match.
Mr. and Mrs. Twit are the titular Twits that the book is about, and neither of them are particularly nice people, even to each other. Mr. Twit has a horrible matted beard that traps fragments of all the food he eats, thus providing an emergency snack when necessary (urgh!), whilst Mrs. Twit is a bent over old hag of a woman who uses a walking stick and despises children. They go through life being mean to anybody and everybody, and have a habit of playing practical jokes on one another.
The practical jokes are what make up many of the memorable moments of the book, and gradually get nastier and nastier. For example, Mrs. Twit collects worms from the garden and serves them up as part of Mr. Twits spaghetti dinner, claiming it is a new brand called “Squiggly Spaghetti” and that she is really enjoying hers (which of course is worm free) when Mr. Twit complains about the wriggling texture of the meal.
To pay Mrs. Twit back for the spaghetti, Mr. Twit concocts a long term plan of “The Dreaded Shrinks”. Every night, when Mrs. Twit is asleep he glues a thin sliver of wood to the bottom of her walking stick and the legs of her chair. After a suitable length of time Mrs. Twit finally notices something is wrong, and Mr. Twit tells her she is shrinking, and the only way to save her is to stretch her. Mrs. Twit being a twit doesn’t stop to realise that she is still the same size in relation to her husband, and allows Mr. Twits plan to continue. He ties her feet to the ground, and then attaches a great many helium ballons to her wrists. Of course Mrs. Twit ends up airborne, but she gets the last laugh when she pops the baloons and crashes back to the ground, landing on Mr. Twit.
The Twits ultimately come to a sticky end (pun intended) at the hands of their pet monkeys, who they have tortured over the years by making them stand on their heads for long periods of time. The monkeys turn the Twits house upside down, literally, by gluing all their furniture to the ceiling. As the Twits enter their house, some more glue is dropped on their unsuspecting heads. Seeing that everything is upside down they believe they must be the ones that are the wrong way up, and stand on their heads, becoming glued to the floor. The act of being stuck in this position for so long means the Twits bodies start to collapse in on themselves (OK, implausible I know, but this is a kids book) until all that is left of them are two piles of clothes.