Matilda

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
Matilda Book Poster Image
Kid genius gets revenge on stupid, mean adults.
Parents recommendPopular with kids

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 18 reviews

Kids say

age 8+
Based on 73 reviews

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

There is no love between Matilda and her parents, upon whom she exacts revenge for their awful behavior toward her.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Were it not in a humorous fantasy, Miss Trunchbull's behavior would be considered abuse, where it is not downright impossible. The relationship between Matilda and her parents is also one of mutual dislike, and children are shown exacting revenge on adults. Still, it's all played for fun and laughs, and young readers certainly know not to take it seriously.

Violence & Scariness

Miss Trunchbull throws children out windows, picks them up and swings them around by their hair, and locks them in a tiny room with spikes in the walls, though no one is actually harmed by any of this.

Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that, like much of Dahl's work, this book delights children even as it troubles adults.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 7, 9, and 13 year old Written byMalafon September 18, 2009
Adult Written byhotdogchick April 9, 2008
Kid, 11 years old June 13, 2010

Matilda, a Brilliant book

Matilda is an excellent book by the famous author, Roald Dahl, who also wrote Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach and The Twits. Matild... Continue reading
Kid, 10 years old May 4, 2011

WOW!

I liked this story but just to much eviel well i dont know how to say it but its great story for us kids on aldults too so teens.

What's the story?

Matilda is a genius: By age 4 she 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 get revenge on them for their atrocious behavior, such as putting superglue into her father hat brim, and swapping his hair tonic for peroxide.

Things get worse when she 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." Getting back at the Trunchbull will be much more difficult, and dangerous, than her parents, so Matilda's magnificent mind starts developing even more talents -- unbelievable talents!

Is it any good?

Some adults hate this children's classic for the same reason kids love it -- it shows a good, smart child overcoming evil, dumb adults. It has ridiculous, cartoon violence, not meant to be taken seriously, where no one actually gets hurt. It has a black-and-white view of the world: The good are all good, and the wicked get their comeuppance at the hands of giddy, delighted children. If any of this bothers you, if you think children's books should always have a respectful attitude to adults in general and parents in particular, keep it out of your house, because griping about it will make you look just as nasty and clueless as Matilda's parents.

If, on the other hand, you can enjoy this type of humor, it's a harmlessly guilty snicker you can share with your kids. It's a silly romp, a good read-aloud, and a mild challenge for middle graders to read themselves. Either way, it will have them giggling and feeling immensely satisfied at the ending (which bothers some adults even more than the rest of the book). 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about topics like fairness, revenge, adult/child power relationships, and the nature of intelligence.

  • Do you think Matilda is justified in playing tricks on her parents? On Miss Trunchbull? (And what do you think Miss Trunchbull might have been like as a little girl about Matilda's age?)

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

  • Do you agree with the ways in which Matilda used them?

Book details

For kids who love foolish fantasies

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