By Roald Dahl; illustrations by Quentin Blake (Puffin Modern Classics, 1988)
Humor / Fantasy
Matilda is an exceptionally gifted five year-old, able to read and do mathematics well above her grade level. She is also the daughter of two exceptionally rotten parents, but despite her less-than-ideal home life, she is sweet, unassuming and surprisingly wise. The book Matilda, though charming in its own right (as most of Dahl’s work is), is in-and-of-itself exceptional, because of it’s exceptional heroine. As Matilda good naturedly sets out to do everything from read the classics to avenging her beloved teacher, Miss Honey, the reader is propelled along by a compulsion to see how Matilda will handle herself. And one is never disappointed.
Matilda occupies a territory that is difficult to define – it is humorous without being expressly funny and it passes fluidly back and forth between the realistic and fantastic – and yet, Dahl never falters. The story is seamless and his heroine is a delight from start to finish. Though younger adolescents may get more out of reading it with an adult (some of the vocabulary and phrasings may prove challenging), most will gobble the story up as Matilda gets hers over the wretched Wormwoods and the horrific Miss Trunchbull. Matilda would be a great suggestion for a summer reading program. It would also do well in a display of books that celebrate reading (along with the Inkheart series, etc.)