THE TWITS

The nasty streak that lurks in Dahl's stories for adults and children comes out with a vengeance in his characterization of Mr. and Mrs. Twit and the nasty tricks they play on one another. Dahl's first sentence—"What a lot of hairy-faced men there are around nowadays"—might suggest that the manuscript has been sitting in a drawer for a decade; but if so it hasn't mellowed. Dahl will lose most reading-aloud adults straight off with his description of all the disgusting leftovers more or less permanently lodged in bathless Mr. Twit's beard. Ugly Mrs. Twit with her ugly thoughts is no more attractive. She puts her glass eye in her husband's beer glass and "cackles" (she would cackle) "I told you I was watching you. I've got eyes everywhere." He in turn puts a frog in her bed. She feeds him worms for spaghetti. He, borrowing an old ploy, gradually builds up her walking stick so she'll think she is shrinking. To cure her of the purported "shrinks" he subjects her to a stretching—which, however, backfires for him. Then Dalai turns to the birds, whom Mr. Twit catches for his pies by putting glue on their tree branches. The Twits also keep a family of monkeys they train to perform upside down. At last the birds and monkeys do in the Twits with an ingenious punishment that fits their crimes. Dahl describes all this unredeemed viciousness with a spirited, malevolent glee that plays shamelessly, and no doubt successfully, to kids' malicious impulses and unmerciful sense of justice.

Pub Date: March 1, 1981

ISBN: 014241039X

Page Count: 76

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1981

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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More gift book than storybook, this is a meaningful addition to nursery bookshelves

MAYBE

A young child explores the unlimited potential inherent in all humans.

“Have you ever wondered why you are here?” asks the second-person narration. There is no one like you. Maybe you’re here to make a difference with your uniqueness; maybe you will speak for those who can’t or use your gifts to shine a light into the darkness. The no-frills, unrhymed narrative encourages readers to follow their hearts and tap into their limitless potential to be anything and do anything. The precisely inked and colored artwork plays with perspective from the first double-page spread, in which the child contemplates a mountain (or maybe an iceberg) in their hands. Later, they stand on a ladder to place white spots on tall, red mushrooms. The oversized flora and fauna seem to symbolize the presumptively insurmountable, reinforcing the book’s message that anything is possible. This quiet read, with its sophisticated central question, encourages children to reach for their untapped potential while reminding them it won’t be easy—they will make messes and mistakes—but the magic within can help overcome falls and failures. It’s unlikely that members of the intended audience have begun to wonder about their life’s purpose, but this life-affirming mood piece has honorable intentions. The child, accompanied by an adorable piglet and sporting overalls and a bird-beaked cap made of leaves, presents white.

More gift book than storybook, this is a meaningful addition to nursery bookshelves . (Picture book. 2-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-946873-75-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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