Review of The Twits, The Minpins, and The Magic Finger by Roald Dahl

November 26, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

 twitsThe Twits, The Minpins, & The Magic Finger
By Roald Dahl; Read by Richard Ayoade, Bill Bailey, and Kate WinsletPublisher: Penguin Audio
Publication Date: 26 September 2013
[UNABRIDGED] – 2 hours

Themes: / children’s fantasy / short stories / creatures /

Publisher summary:

THE TWITS
How do you outwit a Twit? Mr. and Mrs. Twit are the smelliest, nastiest, ugliest people in the world. They hate everything—except playing mean jokes on each other, catching innocent birds to put in their Bird Pies, and making their caged monkeys, the Muggle-Wumps, stand on their heads all day. But the Muggle-Wumps have had enough. They don’t just want out, they want revenge.

THE MINPINS
Little Billy strays into the forest, where he meets the Minpins?tiny people who live within the trees. The Minpins tell Billy about The Gruncher, who preys on them. So Billy embarks on a mission to rid the Minpins of their foe once and for all, and sets off?on the back of a swan?to confront The Gruncher.

THE MAGIC FINGER
What happens when the hunter becomes the hunted? To the Gregg family, hunting is just plain fun. To the girl who lives next door, it’s just plain horrible. She tries to be polite. She tries to talk them out of it, but the Greggs only laugh at her. Then one day the Greggs go too far, and the little girl turns her Magic Finger on them. When she’s very, very angry, the little girl’s Magic Finger takes over. She really can’t control it, and now it’s turned the Greggs into birds! Before they know it, the Greggs are living in a nest, and that’s just the beginning of their problems.

Although I have enjoyed many of the movies made from Roald Dahl’s books (most notably James and the Giant Peach) I cannot recall reading any of his books except Charlie and the Chocolate Factory which was … fine but not world changing for me. That’s kind of odd too, when I think about it, because I was the right age to be the prime audience when a lot of his books were coming out but I was largely oblivious to them. (Yep. Dated myself. Don’t care.)

However, as I have learned in the past, audio often breaks open a book or author who I didn’t find congenial in print. It was that way with Coraline by Neil Gaiman. It was that way with the last half of The Lord of the Rings (yes, I am ashamed but I will not lie). And, now, it is that way with Roald Dahl.

The Twits are the most horrible couple in the world and quite hateful to each other, until they are under attack from a common enemy. Even then they are horrible which makes it quite gratifying to see them get their comeuppance from the Muggle-Wump monkey family and the Roly Poly bird. This story had the most disgusting description of a beard I have ever encountered. Even while I was grimacing, I was also laughing because Dahl had such a clever way with words. Narrator Richard Ayoade had a lovely, calm British narration style that didn’t preclude hilarious, low-class voices for the Twits. First class stuff.

The Minpins has the most perfect monster name I’ve ever heard — The Gruncher, a fire-breathing, boy eating creature in Sin Forest. It sends Billy right up a tree where he meets the Minpins and they form an ingenious alliance to deal with their common foe. Bill Bailey narrated this with a great deal of gusto which didn’t detract in the least from the story.

The Magic Finger was my favorite story, partially because Kate Winslet’s narration won me over from the very beginning. I also just couldn’t resist the little girl who “puts my Magic Finger” on those who displease her. The Greggs are worthy of a magic finger punishment because they are such keen hunters. What the Magic Finger does is typical Dahl ingenuity at its best.

All three of these are little stories but each is a gem which children would love. Heck, I liked them quite a bit myself and, as I have revealed, I am far past the age of tender youth. I am now going to look for more Roald Dahl in audio, possibly even revisiting Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Posted by Julie D.

 

Review of Matilda by Roald Dahl

October 25, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Matilda by Roald DahlMatilda
By Roald Dahl; Read by Kate Winslet
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Publication Date: 3 July 2013
ISBN: 9781611761849
[UNABRIDGED] – 5 hours

Themes: / fantasy / telekinesis / children / school / libraries / bullies /

Publisher summary:

Matilda is a sweet, exceptional young girl, but her parents think she’s just a nuisance. She expects school to be different but there she has to face Miss Trunchbull, a kid-hating terror of a headmistress. When Matilda is attacked by the Trunchbull she suddenly discovers she has a remarkable power with which to fight back. It’ll take a superhuman genius to give Miss Trunchbull what she deserves and Matilda may be just the one to do it!

This book made me so nostalgic for childhood, mostly because Roald Dahl is a wizard who can see through a child’s eyes but also because he was such a huge influence on me when I was a kid. Matilda was one of my favorite Roald Dahl stories, and hearing it narrated by Kate Winslet was amazing—probably the best narration I’ve heard. She colors every single character a fully realized personality, from syrupy sweet to hilariously grotesque. I think Kate Winslet is doing in narration what Quentin Blake did for Roald Dahl in illustration.

The story is Roald Dahl at his best: it is sarcastic and dark (featuring a bingo-obsessed mother, a dishonest father, and a headmistress who throws children out windows for eating in class) but it’s also hilarious, magical, and hopeful.

Matilda Wormwood is a very small, sensitive, and brilliant girl who has the misfortune of being born to gormless idiots. Mr. Wormwood is a rat-faced used-car salesman who’s really only interested in people who boost his ego. He seems allergic to his daughter, mainly because she is much cleverer than him. Mrs. Wormwood, when she’s not off playing bingo, sits around watching American soaps and thinks “Looks is more important than books!”

Matilda’s good morals and quick wits unsettle her parents, which makes them even more dismissive and neglectful of her. Her only escape is to visit the local library where she devours the whole children’s section in no time. The amazed librarian than helps guide the little girls through all the classics, from Charles Dickens and Jane Austen to George Orwell and HG Wells.

 “The books transported her into new worlds and introduced her to amazing people who lived exciting lives. She went on olden-day sailing ships with Joseph Conrad. She went to Africa with Ernest Hemingway and to India with Rudyard Kipling. She travelled all over the world while sitting in her little room in an English village.”

Reading all this literature awakens something in Matilda.  She realizes that she now has a view on life that her parents have not experienced and never will, and that there’s far more to life than cheating people and watching television.

But she’s only four, so she’s stuck with them, “no matter how asinine.”  To stop herself from going crazy, she beings to play mischievous pranks on them to punish them for every wrong they do. And when she starts school and meets even nastier bullies, she must use her brain power to develop new techniques for helping good people and punishing rotten ones.

I love the honesty Roald Dahl puts into his children’s stories. Children are often taught they must respect and obey their parents and teachers no matter what, as if we live in some utopia where all adults are intelligent, caring protectors. But Roald Dahl is not afraid to tell children the truth: sometimes monsters are real, and sometimes they look just like the people who have the most power over you or are supposed to care about you. People should earn trust and respect through their actions, not get it automatically because of their authority, age, or status.

Roald Dahl also teaches the other great wisdom: the world is full of idiots and oversized egos, and the best way to survive them is to keep your wits sharp and find the humor in every situation.

Posted by Marissa van Uden