I am starting to enjoy some of the (advanced) books that our kid requests to be read at bedtime! Recently his teacher read from Matilda, which interested him so much that we read it at bedtime. Though he lost interest after the 1st chapter, I loved the appetizer enough to read it fully on my own.
Starting from the very first chapter Roald Dahl had me laughing and hooked. Matilda is a 5-something girl who is treated terribly by her villainous dad and mom. She is quite precocious, teaching herself to read and chews through all the books at her library. When her dad and mom do not treat her well, she exacts revenge through deliciously evil tricks on them. When she enters primary school she gets a lovely Miss Honey as teacher, but a monstrous Miss Trunchbull as head teacher. How she saves Honey’s life (and her own) while triumphing over Trunchbull forms the gripping climax.
Growing up in Bangalore (India), I had not come across Roald Dahl and he was thus unfamiliar to me. I loved everything in this first book of his I’m reading - endearing characters, settings and a gripping story. There are loads of mischievous tricking of adults here to satiate the naughtiest of kids, while at the same time the literary quality is exceptional. I was somewhat surprised by the minor acts of physical violence, domestic violence and mention of murder in a book probably aimed at 3rd/4th grade kids. Credit to the author that this is dealt with delicately by making the child characters bring it up and discuss it. This is clearly a book that can be enjoyed during childhood and can be returned to in adulthood to realize the other facets it holds.
Matilda was originally published in 1988 along with illustrations by Quentin Blake. Special mention for these wonderful illustrations, because it was those images of Matilda, her dad and Trunchbull that I imagined while reading the book. I think a lot of the joy of this book is lost if you pick up an edition that does not have Blake’s art in it. This book was fantastic, I look forward to reading the rest of Dahl’s children’s books.