This review was written by Karla Kuskin and printed in the March 29, 1981 edition of The New York Times.
“Mr. Twit was a twit. He was born a twit…”
THE TWITS By Roald Dahl. Illustrated by Quentin Blake. 76 pp. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. $6.95. (Ages 8 to 11)
“Mr. Twit was a twit. He was born a twit. And now at the age of sixty, he was a bigger twit than ever.” That goes for Mrs. Twit too. But twit, which is a funny word, seems scarcely adequate for the two villainous people described by Roald Dahl with such relish. Not to mention ketchup, spinach and minced chicken livers, all of which cling to Mr. T.’s revolting beard. That is just one of many details, Mrs. T.’s ugliness is another, carefully catalogued in the opening pages of this book. Furthermore, the Twits hate everything, particularly each other. So she puts her glass eye in his beer and worms in his spaghetti and he responds with a frog in her bed, etc.
On page 32 Mr. Dahl interrupts all this to say “We can’t go on forever watching these two disgusting people doing disgusting things to each other. We must get ahead with the story.” So he gets ahead to the dead tree the Twits paint with Hugtight glue so they can make Bird Pie out of the birds they catch tree sitting. And the four boys who get caught in the glue too and run off pantless, never to reappear. And the four monkeys the Twits keep in a cage and continually force to balance upside down. And the African Roly–Poly Bird that eventually saves the other birds from future Bird Pies and rescues the Monkeys, who in turn turn the Twits’ house upside down by extensive use of glue. At last, of course, the Twits meet their own gluey ends. Quite literally. Then there is nothing left of them but two old piles of clothes. Cheers galore.
Everybody knows that Mr. Dahl is a renowned writer for adults and children. For the latter he has written a few wonderfully funny and imaginative books. The Twits is not one of them. The movement of the plot is capricious. And the humor dwells on rather elementary physical jokes, only a few of which are funny. Basically this reads like a story reeled out at bedtime by a talented but distracted uncle who wants to pack the children off quickly. It needs pruning, paring, sharpening and some bolting down in order to go public and add luster to the already lustrous, and funny, name of Roald Dahl.