Matilda by Roald Dahl
Illustrator: Quentin Blake
Published by Puffin on June 1st 1998
Genres: Fantasy, Middle Grade
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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.
I love Dahl’s writing. I’ve heard that it’s a little harsh for kids because Dahl uses phrases like ‘ignorant twit’ and things like that (haha!) but honestly I think it’s hilarious and I’m sure most kids would too.
This is one of the best books I have ever read. It’s perfect. Matilda is so loveable and so is Miss Honey. One of the biggest strengths in this book is that Dahl makes it so easy to get behind the good guys and so easy to hate the bad ones- i.e. The Trunchbull and her parents. The characterization is amazing. And the story is so wonderfully done. Everything that should happen, happens. Of course it’s not without misfortune and cruelty, but it’s done in a way that isn’t traumatizing and isn’t without punishment. It’s beautiful. It’s even more awesome that Matilda’s gifts extend past the reasonable and into the supernatural.
Matilda is just an amazing child. She has to deal with two people that are quite possibly the worst literary parents ever and an abusive headmaster. While knowing she’s above them all because she’s a genius (but she’s so humble I’m not sure she even knows that). And yet she doesn’t go crazy. She’s smart enough to bide her time and get revenge in a way that will punish them without causing permanent damage or in a way that will make them target her more. She’s truly clever.
The same can be said for Miss Honey’s strength of character. She and Matilda are alike in many ways, which makes the ending even more perfect.
Good vs. Bad
Less than perfect:
This is one of the most amazing children’s books I’ve ever read. The story is fantastic and the characterization is amazing. Matilda is the most loveable, clever, brilliant child ever. The writing is witty and engaging. Would I read more by this author? It’s my goal to read everything that Dahl has ever written for kids. Would I recommend this to others? Without a doubt. Read it.