Today’s throwback is 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.
I’ve been on a bit of a Roald Dahl kick lately, as I had a teacher that read a lot of his most popular books with us. Matilda stuck with me when I was a child, because while I wasn’t a super genius like Matilda, I loved books and I loved to read at a very young age. I would read anything I could get my hands on (or at least try to if it was too hard). I always wished that I had Matilda’s other abilities like telekinesis and her talent with math (both of which I was disappointed to never develop).
Despite having terrible parents who didn’t support her (Matilda’s mom even told her “You chose books and I chose looks.”) and an evil principal, Mrs. Trunchbull, Matilda excels at school and uses her special abilities to get back at those who have hurt her.Now, as an adult, I hope to someday be that teacher (like Miss Honey) who supports her students and encourages them even though other people in their lives may not.
The book Matilda shows children that they have worth, even when sometimes adults and teacher’s don’t act like they do. It shows them that they are smart and resilient and that despite seemingly impossible odds, they can succeed and there are people who will support them.
Not to mention this book was adapted into an excellent film in 1996 starring Mara Wilson as Matilda and Danny DeVito & Rhea Pearlman as her parents, Mr. & Mrs. Wormwood.I couldn’t find a really good quality trailer for this movie, but here is the best one I could find.
And it’s also been made into a musical, which I just discovered yesterday.
I’m very glad that Matilda is still as beloved today as it was when I was a child.
Find Matilda on Goodreads