Little Billy’s mother was always telling him exactly what he was allowed to do and what he was not allowed to do.
My first review on TTW was Dahl-based. It was a review of his first, and little known, picture book called The Gremlins, a fun tale of tricksy little pests that tamper with aeroplane engines. Today, I turn my attention to Dahl’s last ever book. Published posthumously The Minpins explores a mystical and mysterious forest and the types of creatures that might roams between the trees.
Billy is sick and tired of being good. He is always being told to behave by his mother, until suddenly he just can’t take it anymore! Quietly, he sneaks off into the forest behind his house where his mother has forbidden him to go… Will he come across the Terrible Bloodsucking Toothplucking Stonechuckling Spittler she warned him about?
If it weren’t for the strange names of the monsters, you could be forgiven for not immediately recognising Dahl in the pages of The Minpins. The delivery is quite straight-laced and it lacks the trademark tongue-in-cheek humour he is famous for. This tonal change makes The Minpins a very different beast to Dahl’s other works and yet the imaginative story, once kicked up a gear, is classic Dahl – little people living in trees, who wear suction boots to stay on the bark and ride around on birds… just brilliant!
Stepping away from the quirky stylings of Quentin Blake, it is Patrick Benson that brings The Minpins to life. I like buying non-Blake editions of Dahl, just to see how the first illustrators interpreted the strange and wonderful worlds of Dahl so I’m quite used to different pairings. Benson, like the book, illustrates in quite a classic, naturalistic style. I always imagine the Minpins being a little bit quirkier but the menace of the Gruncher is illustrated fabulously – the billowing orange and red smoke chasing poor Billy through the trees reflects the urgency of the chase perfectly.
There is a sadness that lingers when you discover that this was Dahl’s last book for, much like Prospero’s final words in Shakespeare’s final play, there is poignancy to the final and stunningly beautiful lines of The Minpins. It is as though Dahl is saying his own farewell to his readers with one final recommendation for life:
And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.
If you want to see a different side to this wonderful storyteller, then The Minpins might just be the tale for you.