Well, here it is, Matilda. This was the book that started it all for me, (as I mentioned in a previous post), my favourite Roald Dahl book, and my favourite book of all time.
The meaning of this character is so strong, and close to my heart I cannot even begin to describe the sentimental ties I feel when reading this book. Well, enough with all the mushy stuff, let’s dive right into looking at, Matilda.
Matilda is an interesting story because in the original draft she wasn’t the sweet, lovable child we have come to know. In fact, the powers that she uses to control objects was actually used for evil; things like playing nasty tricks on people and helping her teacher financially by fixing a horse race! Aren’t we glad that this wasn’t the final story. Sure, it would make an interesting tale, but with many of Dahl’s characters we know that children in his stories carry a deep, personal narrative to them that may not be understood by adults, but are there to have people understand the moral fibre that children can adopt early on. These characters show that children have feelings, thoughts, ideas, and individual minds that are often ignored, or overlooked. That is the reason why many of Dahl’s books are so well acclaimed. They appeal to a wide audience that can take the lessons we need to learn in life seriously, but still find the emotional backbone behind it all.
The book has steeped its way into the popular culture realm pretty quickly, becoming one of the most well-known, and loved children’s stories of all time going on to win awards as well, like the Federation of Children’s Book Groups Award in 1988, and in 1998 was voted “Nation’s Favourite Children’s Book” in BBC Bookworm Poll. Pretty cool if you ask me!
The film went on to be taken to the big screen in 1996, starring Danny DeVito, Rita Perlman, and Mara Wilson as Matilda. The film stays close to the book except for a few minor changes, (no birds pretending to be ghosts here-read the book, you’ll see what I mean). Fun fact, the book came to be a live show in 2010 by the Royal Shakespeare Company and later moving to broadway in 2013. If you ever, ever, get the chance to take a class or even a theatre group to see this show I would highly recommend it. I didn’t get the chance to see it for myself but I plan to in the future. It is a critically acclaimed show.
This was to be the last “long” children’s book that Dahl wrote, but boy did it ever stand out!
The story, as many of you know, centres around our young heroine Matilda Wormwood, living with her two nasty parents (Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood), and her older brother. From an early age Matilda showed signs of a high intellect, but even as she grew, her intelligence was all but ignored. When she discovers the library, she finds her way through a world of books. Children’s stories, classic literature, and non-fiction of all kinds (science, math, history, geography) When she finally gets to school, she meets two women that will change her life, Miss. Trunchbull (the big evil headmistress), and Miss. Honey (her kind hearted teacher). Matilda discovers after helping a friend to pull a prank on Miss. Trunchbull that she has telekinetic powers. Even after discovering how smart Matilda is at school, no matter how hard she tries she cannot get Matilda’s parents to listen, (as they are too wrapped up in front of the telly).
Despite the horrors at school, Miss. Honey’s personal heartache, Mr. Wormwood’s shady business dealings as a used car salesman, and her new powers, Matilda works through her struggles to come out on top, and find the home she deserves. Matilda herself uses her powers for the greater good. She practices her talent and prepares a plan to get rid of the evil Trunchbull, save the school, and in the end, escape her previous life with her greedy parents.
Classroom Connections (Primary/Junior Level 3-6):
This story focuses on many important themed that can be touched upon at any level in nearly every subject. In literature, talk to your students about their love of books. Always encourage a love of reading to your students and keep plenty of reading material for them, or have them bring book from home. Don’t make it a competition to read as much as possible. Just find ways for them to read what they love, and share, critique, and use other forms of communication to demonstrate their understanding and application of the texts.
Take time to make a class favourite book list, (I saw this at a school I worked at before), and keep it up in the class so other students can check out what others are reading.
For writing, have students write about times that they had to deal with tough situations; situations where they might have had to be brave, stand up for something that was wrong, or doing a good deed, and talk about how we can do good for our community. (Maybe even host a book drive working with your local library)!
I am sure there are even more ideas available so feel free to please comment or send them my way!
(If you have any more ideas for Roald Dahl books you would like me to examine please let me know!)- Keep an eye out for new posts!