Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Twits

During our (probably brief) break from the Inkheart series, we are reading the Roald Dahl books that Evalina got for Christmas.  First up was The Twits, which I have never read.  We finished it in one night. 

The Story:  Mr. Twit and Mrs. Twit were dreadful human beings.  They were horrible to each other, and pretty horrible to people around them, too.  They were not kind to animals or children.  They had four monkeys (because they used to be monkey trainers) which they treated terribly and were made to stand on their heads all the time.  Mr. Twit really liked to eat Bird Pie, so he smeared a tree outside their house with super sticky glue, to catch the birds... until the monkeys got together with a visiting bird to turn the Twits world upside-down..

The Good:  It's hilarious (what else would you expect from Roald Dahl) and a super quick read.  The Twits are painted as truly ghastly, and you don't feel bad for them when they get their due.  The illustrations by Quentin Blake match the story wonderfully.  Evalina loved it and couldn't (wouldn't) put it down until it was done.

The Bad:  The Twits are really awful people.  They do really mean things to each other.  However, I wouldn't say that's bad, just that you should be aware, you are not going to be reading about nice characters here...

The Verdict:  Get it!  I was laughing out loud.  It's only about 75 pages long, and filled with wonderful illustrations, so it's really quick.  It's fun to see what the animals do to get back at the Twits, and it is definitely worth a read.  Amazon lists it as appropriate for ages 7-11, and I think a little younger would be fine, too.  (Evalina is not quite 7, and I think she would have appreciated this story even a year ago or more..)  I just don't think you can go wrong with Roald Dahl.

Saturday, January 23, 2010


I got Inkheart for Evalina last year, and it has sat upon the shelf, looking large and intimidating ever since.  It's a whopper of a book, at 535 pages.  But that's not all - it has two sequels:  Inkspell (656 pages) and Inkdeath (also 656 pages).  So, reading it was a commitment of near epic proportions.

Evalina insisted, though, and I'm glad she did.  It's taken us a long time (over a month and a half!) to get through Inkheart alone, but it's a really great book, and she has loved it, as have I.

The Story:  Meggie (age 12) lives a content life, alone with her father, Mo, and their books.  He is a bookbinder, and has instilled in her a love of books that is undeniable.  Still, he has never, in her memory, read aloud to her.  A mysterious stranger, Dustfinger, appears in the middle of the night, and tells Mo that Capricorn is after The Book.  Without explaining anything to Meggie yet, Mo packs up their things and heads out of town, to her great aunt Ellinor's house, which is also filled top to bottom with her precious books.  They are there to protect and hide The Book, a book that Meggie has never seen before, but Mo treats like a treasure.  Still not understanding what is going on, Meggie is alarmed when agents of this unknown villain, Capricorn, arrive at Ellinor's house and kidnap her father.  In an attempt to get him back, they set off for Capricorn's village, with The Book in tow.  It is there that Meggie finds out the truth - her father has an amazing ability.  When he reads aloud, sometimes characters from the book emerge from the pages, and come into our world.  That's where Dustfinger, Capricorn, and his men came from.  The only problem is, when someone comes out, someone else goes in.  Meggie had always thought that her mother left them when she was a baby, but it turns out that Mo read her into The Book - Inkheart.  Try as he might, he was never able to read her back out, and vowed to never read aloud again.  That is, until Capricorn forced him to...

The Good:  The story is really engaging, and I love Cornelia Funke's writing style.  She seems to write spunky girls well.  My own spunky girl appreciated that.  The love of books that is evident in the story is nice to see, and the relationship Meggie has with her father is wonderful.  Though the book was long, it never seemed to drag.  All of the characters, good and evil, are well flushed out and believable.

The Bad:  Wow, is it ever long.  And then, facing the two longer sequels, I am more daunted than Evalina I think.  The evil characters are really dark, and there is some violence that is unsettling, and some definite scary parts.  Also, there is the thing with fire.  Dustfinger is a fire-eater and jester, who mainly deals with fire.  I had to spend quite a lot of time talking to Evalina about how she is never ever ever ever to play with fire like he does.  She nodded and smiled at me about it, but I am not about to leave her near any open flames any time soon.  That part made me nervous. 

The Verdict:  It's recommended for grades 5-9, and I think if you are not reading with your child, that holds true.  For reading together, although it takes a long time to get through, Evalina was able to follow and enjoy the story.  It's a really great story, and though they are long, I'm looking forward to reading the sequels.  I've heard that the movie took a lot of liberties, though, and while it is decent, it's not at all like the book.  That's a shame, but I can understand. It is hard to make a faithful movie based on a book that is over 500 pages long.  Overall, though, super good and really really worth reading... although it might be something that you want to let your child read by themselves.  Reading it aloud certainly was a commitment... and now I'm in for the sequels!  I've convinced her that we should read a couple shorter books before hopping into them, though, and I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next, but I'm glad for a break.