A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
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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It was fine as long as I did the reading, but I couldn't let the... Continue reading
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 Factory. Mean 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?
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