Matilda is one our favourite fictional heroines and her story is our favourite Roald Dahl story. She loves books, she’s strong minded, determined, feisty and all of these attributes lead her, against all odds, to find her own happy ending. Two other people also stand out in Matilda’s story, both are supportive and encouraging and help her escape the harsh reality of life at home. The local librarian, Mrs Phelps, after her initial surprise at Matilda’s high reading level, encourages her and helps feed her voracious reading habit before Matilda’s teacher, Miss Honey, goes well beyond the call of duty and becomes a supportive friend.
The Story: Five year old Matilda’s father is a crooked car salesman and her mother leaves her alone while she goes to bingo. Matilda escapes to the local library to read and on her first day of school astounds her teacher, Miss Honey, with her amazing intelligence. Thanks to Miss Honey’s encouragement Matilda blossoms and then discovers that she has an amazing power, a power that helps her get the better of the school’s cruel headteacher, Miss Trunchbull.
Miss Honey, herself the victim of a tragic childhood, becomes an important figure in Matilda’s life and encourages her in a way that her parents never have. Mr Wormwood is a shady character who revels in his ability to lie and cheat whilst Mrs Wormwood thinks nothing of leaving her daughter alone at home every day. Neither can see the attraction of a book when they can watch television, one day Mr Wormwood rips Matilda’s library book into shreds and puts it in the bin!
Matilda’s story evokes so many different emotions. We’re sympathetic to her unsupportive home situation, we’re stunned at Mr Wormwood’s deceit, we laugh at the tricks that Matilda plays on her father and we gasp at Miss Trunchbull’s unbelievable cruelty! But throughout the story it is Matilda’s resilience that is most impressive and her determination to use her amazing power for the good of all. She’s incredibly intelligent and we love the way that she outsmarts her parents in retaliation for their cruel remarks. My daughter particularly loves the chapter ‘The Hat and the Superglue’ in which Matilda punishes her father for not letting her read instead of watching television.
The humorous text is supported by Quentin Blake’s wonderful pen and ink illustrations and his portrayals of the different characters are brilliant, we particularly like the way that he’s portrayed Miss Trunchbull who is enormous and extremely unattractive! As the story unfolds Miss Trunchbull and Matilda’s mutual dislike grows and one of our favourite illustration shows a newt crawling onto Miss Trunchbull, at this point in the story Matilda discovers the amazing power of her mind which leads her to plot her revenge on Miss Trunchbull for being so mean!
Matilda is a fabulously determined heroine whose actions and attitude lead to positive changes in many lives. Unfortunately the same can’t be said of her father whose cheating ways catch up with him in a spectacular fashion and ultimately help Matilda find the love and support that she deserves 🙂
Roald Dahl’s Matilda was first published in 1988. We can’t believe that she’ll be thirty years old next year! Do you have a favourite Roald Dahl book? We’d love to hear your favourites in the comments.
Age Range: 5 +
Author: Roald Dahl / Illustrator: Quentin Blake
You can read more on Matilda’s page on Roald Dahl’s website.
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