Matilda by Roald Dahl

About Matilda by Roald Dahl: Matilda is a little girl who is far too good to be true. At age five-and-a-half she's knocking off double-digit multiplication problems and blitz-reading Dickens. Even more remarkably, her classmates love her even though she's a super-nerd and the teacher's pet. But everything is not perfect in Matilda's world. For starters she has two of the most idiotic, self-centered parents who ever lived. Then there's the large, busty nightmare of a school principal, Mrs. ("The") Trunchbull, a former hammer-throwing champion who flings children at will and is approximately as sympathetic as a bulldozer. Fortunately for Matilda, she has the inner resources to deal with such annoyances: astonishing intelligence, saintly patience, and an innate predilection for revenge.

She warms up with some practical jokes aimed at her hapless parents, but the true test comes when she rallies in defense of her teacher, the sweet Miss Honey, against the diabolical Trunchbull. There is never any doubt that Matilda will carry the day. Even so, this wonderful story is far from predictable. Roald Dahl, while keeping the plot moving imaginatively, also has an unerring ear for emotional truth. The reader cares about Matilda because in addition to all her other gifts, she has real feelings.

My two cents 

D (who's eight) read this in little over a week. I read this in a few hours (so D and I could "compare notes") and found myself strangely engrossed! Roald Dahl is a genius!

I thought that I had read this as a child (being such an avid fan of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) but no, Matilda is one of Dahl's latter books (published 1988). An endearing tale of Matilda, a child prodigy whose parents don't give a damn, and how she finds an ally and friend in her teacher Miss Honey.

With no thanks to her parents, Matilda resorts to playing pranks to feel better. The imaginative and funny descriptions sent D into gales of laughter. She especially likes the pranks on her father - going to bed with a hat glued on his head, and how his dark hair was "mistakenly" dyed a platinum blonde. The parrot prank is really funny too.

Matilda is is reading classics at age 5. Preferring reading over watching TV (great thing to point out to kids like D), when she does get into school she is eons ahead of her classmates. There is a quick runthough of all the classics that Matilda had read (she especially likes Charles Dickens). Naturally this interested D and she has been looking for these titles in our recent bookstore visits and asking if she can read them too!

Anyway, our lovely Miss Honey tries to get Matilda accelerated so she give her hyperactive mind the exercise it needed, among kids who were the same mental age as she. But, no, the evil headmistress The Trunchbull, wouldn't hear of it. The Trunchbull hates children, even for no apparent reason, and stops nothing short of child abuse (like putting them in the device call the Chokey, hurling kids by their hair, force feeding them too much chocolate cake). You will learn, very quickly, to hate The Trunchbull and empathize with Matilda and Miss Honey.

In a strange turn of events, we learn that Miss Honey and The Trunchbull are related. Through Matilda's newly discovered mental powers, she saves the day for Miss Honey, and The Trunchbull disappears from the book and gladly the face of the earth (insert cheer here).

Who's good and who's evil are clear as day, and it's a no brainer whose side you should be on. Matilda can be a little smart alecky though, and you may get some smart alecky questions/responses from your own little one. The violence of The Trunchbull can be a little offputting, and you may have to reiterate to your child: it's just a story and no one can really hurl a child 10 feet away by swinging her by the hair. Really.

I heard that the movie is pretty good too despite the (expected) deviations from the original. But I always seem to prefer a good read before a movie version.

Highly recommended and definitely a keeper.


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© guiltless readingMaira Gall