“So Matilda’s strong young mind continued to grow, nurtured by the voices of all those authors who had sent their books out into the world like ships on the sea. These books gave Matilda a hopeful and comforting message: You are not alone.”
Synopsis: Matilda is a sweet, exceptional young girl, but her parents think she’s just a nuisance. She expects school to be different but there she has to face Miss Trunchbull, a kid-hating terror of a headmistress. When Matilda is attacked by the Trunchbull she suddenly discovers she has a remarkable power with which to fight back. It’ll take a superhuman genius to give Miss Trunchbull what she deserves and Matilda may be just the one to do it!
Age Group & Genre(s): Children’s Literature, Classic Literature, Comedy, Humour
Point of View: Third Person Omniscient
Publisher: Puffin Books
Publication Date: 2016 (First published 1988)
As a child, the film adaptation of Matilda (1996) was my all-time favourite — and to be honest, it’s remains to be today. It’s one of those magical movies that make you see the beauty in the world and the people who inhabit it, which is always a lovely refresher. As part of The Book Junkie Trials, I decided to re-read Dahl’s classic children’s novel since I barely remembered the book version. Overall, this was a lovely experience and perfect choice to kick off this epic hunt for the Bookie Grail challenge!
CONTENT & TRIGGER WARNING: This book contains abuse (emotional, verbal, physical, child abuse, child neglect, absent parent), bullying and loss of a loved one (mentioned).
To all the book lovers out in the world, this is a novel for you! Not only is the main character a bookworm, but there’s a HUGE emphasis throughout the story about the importance and beauty of literature. From knowledge seeking to emotional comfort, Dahl remarks on the multiple joys and benefits of being a reader. What I found TRULY profound in the novel is the comments that Matilda makes about reading and literature that I believe ALL readers have experienced as some point, making her love of literature feel more authentic.
Dahl’s Matilda addresses the importance of education and child empowerment. Access to education is such a privilege, when it should be a right. Matilda’s desire and urgency to go to school illustrates how we take for granted some things that seem universal yet aren’t. In addition, Dahl points out how age and size do NOT equate to intelligence … and that it’s our duty to help bring these intelligent beings up rather than drag them down. Miss Honey’s impeccable attention to caring for Matilda’s intellectual needs rather than dismissing them as the other adults do is an EXCELLENT example of how parents and educators alike should act and behave in the REAL WORLD.
The narrative style’s one of the most exceptional parts of this story, making it an easy read for children and adult’s alike. The third person narrative is exceptionally well done. It makes you feel as though you’re sitting in the library for story time rather than actually physically reading the book yourself. It’s very PERSONABLE and COMPELLING, drawing readers in more. This narration style also helps draw out more humour, especially with the narrator’s witty comments about characters in the novel.
For such an older children’s book, I was BLOWN away by the number of real issues Dahl tackles. Bullying, child neglect, multiple forms of abuse, illegal work … Dahl unveils a number of serious topics in this adorable children’s classic, highlighting the importance of fighting against these things that unfortunately occur in real life. Though some things are dramatized, this element makes the book more child friendly rather than a scary book about awful teachers and even worse parents. Using the dramatics and playful nature, Dahl makes this a FUN read for all ages while educating readers on very REAL issues.
For parents and educators, be prepared to explain a number of words and phrases. Throughout the story, there were a number of words that I had Google in order to know the meaning. When reading children’s literature, one of the KEY things I look for is how easy will the child will comprehend the language and the story. There weren’t TOO many instances, but I think Dahl could’ve selected better word choices and phrases to keep the child interested and engaged.
Due to the amount of twists spontaneously appearing, the story felt rushed. The plot twists are one of the things that make Matilda a very compelling story … but they just kept popping up randomly! It’s as though Dahl just sporadically thought to add “this” and “that” without realizing he’s already more than halfway through the novel. These aren’t small twists either … they’re PLOT CHANGING TWISTS! In comparison to the nicely paced first half of the novel, the second half was a bunch of information overload crammed in yet not neatly resolved by the end of the story.
Honestly, I was NOT a fan of the “good” and “bad” character stereotypes. This is, unfortunately, a common element I find in older novels. The “good” characters (i.e. Miss Honey and Matilda) are delicate and lovely, with little to know physical “flaws” and more character development. The “bad” characters are obnoxious, have features that the narrator deems as “unsettling and unappealing” and have little character development. It may seem like a silly complaint, but early childhood education should try to RID of these stereotypes, especially since children learn “morals” and ways of viewing people and the world at an early age. If it was minor, it wouldn’t have bothered me. But it felt like an ACTUALLY dividing line between the “good” characters being described one way and the “bad” characters being described as another.
Roald Dahl’s Matilda is a splendid read, one that every book lover is sure to connect with. Though I’m more of a fan of the film adaptation, there’s something rather adorable and brilliant behind this sweet children’s novel.
I recommend this novel if you enjoy:
↠ Light and funny reads
↠ Importance of child empowerment and education
↠ Consequences for ill-mannered behaviour (karma)
↠ Plot oriented story
↠ Fast paced novels
Have you read Roald Dahl’s Matilda?