Matilda, short for: Lots of fun!

Matilda | Roald Dahl | Puffin Books | first published 1988/this edition published 2016
Paperback: ISBN 978-0-141-36546-6 | £6.99

Matilda is a genius. But the only one who seems to realize that is her teacher Miss Honey. Apart from her there are not a lot of people who approve of Matilda. Her dad thinks she’s nasty. Her mum doesn’t care about her. Her brother thinks she’s a nuisance. And Miss Trunchbull, the headmistress at Matildas School, is a big bully and generally hates children. But when Matilda finds out about the wonderful things she can do with her brain she sets out to teach them all a lesson.

A special movie

In my opinion one of the things that made me such an avid reader – apart from all the great books out there – was the fact that my parents never allowed us to watch a lot of telly when we were younger. We also had only a very few DVDs at home but one of them was the Matilda movie with Mara Wilson as Matilda and Danny DeVito as Mr Wormwood, her dad. It’s propably not really a surprise that my sisters and I loved this movie because, honestly, what’s better for four little girls than a movie about a witty girl who defeats a creepy bully?! We watched this movie over and over again and even 15 years later we are not tired of it.
Until recently I didn’t know though that it’s based on a story by Roald Dahl whose books I learned to love after reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory not too long ago.

The eternal problem with parents

After all that one could say I had rather high expectations about this book. And I gotta say: I’m not disappointed. Actually it was about the funniest read for some time now!
I just adore Matilda for several reasons. For one: she loves books which I can completly understand.

It was pleasant to take a hot drink up to her room and have it beside her as she sat in her silent room reading […]. The books transported her into new worlds and introduced her to amazing people who lived exciting lives. She went on olden-day sailing ships with Joseph Conrad. She went to Africa with Ernest Hemingway and to India with Rudyard Kipling. She travelled all over the world while sitting in her little room in an English village.
– p. 15

Secondly, Roald Dahl manages to take everyday problems and needs of children and turn them into funny, fantastic stories and hilarious readings for children as well as grown-ups. I’m turning 20 this month and I do vividly remember the times when my parents got on my nerves and teachers were a big nuisance. I think that’s something every child can relate to. Even when you are lucky enough to have really good parents who care deeply about you, like it’s the case with my parents, you can still relate to Matilda. Parents can’t always do everything right in the eyes of their children and that’s something universal which makes this book universal.
Roald Dahl wrote an exaggerated story about disinterested parents, a horrible school with the worst of all bad headmistresses and on the other side a clever, daring kid with extraordinary powers. Alongside with Pippi Longstocking this made Matilda THE children-superhero and rolemodel for me.

Book VS Movie

My admiration was based on the movie and in my experience books are normally better than the movies based on them. I can’t really say that because I still love the Matilda movie (to be honest: I just watched it again this week) and I still laugh about all the pranks and tricks Mara Wilson as Matilda played on her surroundings.
For me both the book and the movie are just perfect. Whereas the movie pulls the whole story off a bit more dramatically and includes scenes that are not part of the book, the book has a greater emphasis on books and contains another batch of scenes that are not part of the movie. So all in all for me, as I watched the movie first, they just add funny things to each other and make the hole story even better.

So if you are ever able to lay your hands on a version of the movie: watch it! It’s hilarious! I can imagine though that some might be disappointed when watching the movie after reading the book as it leaves some parts out. In my opinion you should still give it a try and if you can’t watch the movie then at least read the book because it’s just as hilarious!

Matildas father had a fine crop of black hair […] of which he was exceedingliy proud.
„Good strong hair […] means there’s a good strong brain underneath“ [he was fond of saying].
„Like Shakespeare“, Matilda had once said to him.
„Like who?“
„Shakespeare, Daddy.“
„Was he brainy?“
„Very, Daddy.“
„He had masses of hair, did he?“
„He was bald, Daddy.“
– Matilda and Mr. Wormwood, p. 51

About Roald Dahl:
Dahl was born in Cardiff in 1916. He worked for the Shell Oil Company among other countries he worked in Tanzania where he wrote his first literary work: an article about the encounter with a lion.
He joined the Royal Air Force during the Second World War and flew several missions before returning to Great Britain due to severe headaches. He was then deployed as an Agent for the MI6 in America where he started to write.
He married Patricia Neal, a US actress, in 1953. They were married for 30 years and had five children together. They got a divorce in 1983, during the same year Dahl married again.
He died in Oxford in 1990 from acute leukemia.
Source: Wikipedia

Other opinions about the book:

  • Kids‘ Book Review („one of my all-time favourites“)
  • Nose in a Book (5/5; „There’s just something about Roald Dahl’s book that make them special“)
  • Wandering Words (5/5 stars; „there is much to enjoy for young and old alike“)
  • Buchwelt (deutsch; „Matilda ist ein tolles Buch über ein tolles Mädchen“)

Image source cover: Puffin Books
Image source movie poster: Wikipedia
Image source Matilda reading: Moviepilot
Image source Roald Dahl: Wikipedia (Von Carl van Vechten – Van Vechten Collection at Library of Congress. Dieses Bild ist unter der digitalen ID van.5a51872 in der Abteilung für Drucke und Fotografien der US-amerikanischen Library of Congress abrufbar.)

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