Matilda

Book review by
Barbara Schultz, Common Sense Media
Matilda Book Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Kid genius gets revenge on mean adults in fun fantasy.

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 22 reviews

Kids say

age 8+
Based on 82 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Children will learn some quick facts (titles, author names, and some plot summaries) of great books that Matilda reads, including Burnett's The Secret Garden and  Dickens' Great ExpectationsThey'll also learn what times tables are, and how to spell a few words, such as "what" and "difficulty."

Positive Messages

Intelligence can matter more than brutal power, even when power is wielded by a large adult over a small child.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Miss Trunchbull abuses Miss Honey and her students, and Matilda's relationship with her parents is one of mutual dislike. However, Miss Honey is a wonderfully warm and encouraging teacher. She's also very brave in her way, and she has the adult perspective to express how adult cruelty affects children. Matilda is a special young hero, avenging adult crimes with her marvelous brainpower. Of course, this is all in the context of Roald Dahl's fantastical imagination, so the physical abuse is cartoonish, and little children can't really do magic, yet there is much to admire in the genius of Matilda Wormwood.

Violence & Scariness

Miss Trunchbull throws children out of windows, picks them up and swings them around by their hair or ears, and locks a child in a tiny room with spikes protruding from the walls. She also has pushed a young girl's head underwater as punishment. Though no one is really injured in this fantastical novel, some sensitive youngsters may be upset by the Trunchbull's cruelty. 

Language

There's a lot of name-calling directed from adults to kids, or between adults, including "stupid," "glob of glue," "ignorant little twit," "gangster," "useless bunch of midgets," and more.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Roald Dahl's Matilda is about a brilliant, magical little girl who's miserable at home with her nasty, clueless parents and oppressed at school by her mean headmistress, Miss Trunchbull. However, Matilda finds a loving, kindred spirit in her teacher, Miss Honey, who values her pupil's amazing brain power. Miss Trunchbull inflicts mental cruelty and physical abuse on the students, including name-calling, tossing children out of windows, locking them in a closet lined with spiky nails, and spinning them around by their hair or ears. These exaggerated acts of malice are part of the fantasy, though, along with Matilda's magical mental tricks. This novel was made into a dark yet delightful 1996 movie, and it's available as an audiobook read beautifully by actress Kate Winslet

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User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bylmtrav June 13, 2018

Kids are smarter than reviewers are giving them credit for...

Is this book dark? Yes. Is it a bit scary? Yes. Is it for everyone? No. However, no book is for everyone, and some reviewers on here are making it sound as if t... Continue reading
Adult Written bymrswilson220 October 25, 2010

not for children who have trouble not repeating naughty words

Included language my children arn't allowed to use including stupid, idiot, and ass.

It was fine as long as I did the reading, but I couldn't let the... Continue reading
Kid, 5 years old June 8, 2014

Don't like bullies? Read this book!

Matilda is a lovely book. I read this book to myself. It took me about two weeks, reading on the bus on the way to school. I like Matilda very much. Matilda i... Continue reading
Kid, 9 years old May 9, 2020

What's the story?

MATILDA is the story of a little girl genius. By age 4, the title character has read all the books in the children's section of her local library, and moved on to Dickens, Austen, and Hemingway. She can also do advanced math in her head and has a sophisticated understanding of the world. Unfortunately her crooked car-dealer father and bingo-holic mother, TV addicts both, don't appreciate her at all. In fact, they "looked upon Matilda ... as nothing more than a scab." Matilda spends most of her time reading and the rest thinking up clever ways to punish them for their atrocious behavior, such as putting superglue into her father's hat brim, and swapping his hair tonic for peroxide. Things change when Matilda starts school. Crunchem Hall Primary School is run by the horrific Miss Trunchbull, "a gigantic holy terror, a fierce tyrannical monster who frightened the life out of pupils and teachers alike." At the same time, Matilda is taken under the wing of her perfectly sweet teacher, Miss Honey, who needs the little girl as much as the student needs her. Getting back at the Trunchbull will be much more difficult, and dangerous, than punishing her parents, so Matilda's magnificent mind starts developing even more unbelievable talents!

Is it any good?

This classic book has been delighting kids and their parents since 1988, appealing both to readers' imaginations and to their sense of justice. The good in Matilda are all good, and the wicked get their comeuppance at the hands of giddy, delighted children. Precocious readers, like Matilda, will recognize in this novel's villainous characters some of the same qualities that define the bad children in what is probably author Roald Dahl's most famous work, Charlie and the Chocolate FactoryMean characters exhibit gluttony and greed, watch too much television, and cheat to get what they want. Good characters are lovable, smart, and triumphant. Matilda is a wonderful romp -- a great read-aloud for young children, and a mild challenge for middle graders to read themselves. Either way, it's tons of fun and immensely satisfying. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the idea of revenge in Matilda. Is it right for Matilda to play tricks on her parents and Miss Trunchbull?

  • Do you think any real person can do magical tricks like Matilda does?

  • If you had Matilda's powers to move things with your mind, how would you use them? 

Book details

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