Nanny McPhee: The Collected Tales of Nurse Matilda

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
Nanny McPhee: The Collected Tales of Nurse Matilda Book Poster Image
Tiresome tales of misbehaving kids.

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The kids misbehave constantly, and never seem to learn any better. Native Americans, as was the custom in 60s-era Britain, are referred to as "red Indians."

Violence & Scariness

Lots of pratfalls and nasty pranks. The kids are sometimes whacked with various objects, to little effect.


What parents need to know

Parents need to know that bad behavior is the theme and source of entertainment here, and no one learns their lesson. All the adults, except Nurse Matilda, are idiots and are the constant butt of the kid's pranks. Bad behavior by children is considered the norm.

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What's the story?

Printed to accompany the movie, Nanny McPhee, this edition is a compilation of the "Nurse Matilda" stories, upon which the movie was (very loosely) based. In one volume it contains the books Nurse Matilda, Nurse Matilda Goes to Town, and Nurse Matilda Goes to Hospital.

Is it any good?

There's a reason this had gone out of print, until being resurrected by the related movie -- it wasn't very good. The Nurse Matilda stories are so unbelievably formulaic that even kids who get a giggle out of creative misbehavior may get as sick of it when it is endlessly repeated. The author deliberately makes the characters interchangeable so the reader never knows, or cares, who is who among the kids. Even Nurse Matilda has no personality -- she just grows prettier or uglier depending on the kids' behavior.

Just as the kids in this story respect no one, it seems the author doesn't either. There are only three types of characters: nasty children, oafish adults, and Nurse Matilda, the punisher, from whom the children learn nothing. Add wicked, selfish behavior played for laughs in with the xenophobia and mild racism characteristic of British children's books of the period and you get a book that may make your kids laugh -- but you'll wish it didn't.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why this collection was printed now. It had gone out of print -- why would a publisher put it back on shelves? How will the related Nanny McPhee movie encourage sales of this book? Families who have seen the movie may want to compare and contrast the two.

Book details

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