Author: Roald Dahl
Illustrator: Quentin Blake
Publication Date: 1988
Genre: Junior Fiction, Fantasy
Most parents have an idealized view of their child and think that they are the greatest thing to ever happen to the planet. If there was ever a child worthy of such praise, it’s Matilda Wormwood, who taught herself everything she knows and she knows quite a lot. But oddly enough, Mr and Mrs Wormwood think very little of Matilda and tell her so as often as possible. While Matilda's home life is frustrating, she’s found that she can get by well enough if she occasionally teaches her parents a lesson. Nothing humbles an adult more than having their hat glued to their head or their hair bleached, with no one to blame but themselves. By the time Matilda reaches the age of five and a half and starts school, she’s already an expert at dealing with troublesome adults. Matilda’s teacher is Ms. Honey, the most darling woman in the world. However, the headmistress, Ms. Trunchbull, makes Matilda’s parents look perfectly pleasant. Known to throw children out of third story windows by their pigtails, everyone in school fears Ms. Trunchbull. Matilda might just be the smartest person in her whole school, including the teachers. If there’s anyone who can put a stop to the Trunchbull’s reign of terror it’s Matilda, but how will she do it?
I guess this book could be every parent or teacher’s worst nightmare: when children fight back. This was a reread for me and also the first time I’ve read a Roald Dahl book since I was a kid. I have to say that I think Matilda is my favourite of his, although that could change as I reread more of them. The movie adaptation (which I would recommend) came out just as I was starting the first grade (like Matilda in the movie) and I imagine I read the book around the same time. I’ve always loved both the book and the movie and reading Matilda again was like spending the day with an old (and extremely funny) friend. This book shines with Roald Dahl’s typical humour and style. An excellent read for book enthusiasts, this book’s protagonist is a five-year-old genius who reads anything she can get her hands on and does extraordinary things with her mind. This book reminds me of how I used to see the world. When Lavender and Matilda are talking to Hortensia and realize that school is like a war, that’s basically how I felt as a kid. Everything was exciting and extreme. The empty house across the street was surely haunted or possibly lived in by murderers. A stern teacher had to be a monster that tortured children by ripping out their teeth. In Matilda’s case, everything is actually true, and that’s exactly why no would believe her if she were to tell anyone about the Trunchbull. It’s all so ridiculous and outlandish that it would have to be made up. I can see a lot of adults being a bit disturbed by this book and others by Roald Dahl, since no one wants there kids getting back at them with pranks every time they have a time out. Speaking as a former child who loved this book, I knew enough to see that Matilda’s parents and the Trunchbull were extreme cases. I loved the mischief and excitement and how it was a little girl who saved the day in the end. There’s just something about Roald Dahl’s book that make them special: you can’t compare them to anything else. The worlds in his books are full of wicked adults and kids who always win in the end, and I love it.
“Matilda said, "Never do anything by halves if you want to get away with it. Be outrageous. Go the whole hog. Make sure everything you do is so completely crazy it's unbelievable.”