Around 20 years have gone by since I last read Matilida, or any novel by Roald Dahl. What was I thinking? Dahl was my rock star in elementary school. I think I tried on multiple occasions to crawl inside of his books. He is, without a doubt, a masterful storyteller with the ability to enchant young and old audiences alike. I’ll probably spend the rest of the year ferociously ordering his stories and rereading every single word he ever wrote. Every moment spent with Dahl is a moment well spent.
Matilda is a precocious child with a tremendous amount of brainpower and the unfortunate reality of having deplorable parents and an EVIL headmistress, Miss Trunchbull. Luckily, her teacher, Miss Honey, and local librarian convince Matilda that decent adult humans actually exist. When she’s not reading, Matilda is determined to outwit and outmaneuver all despicable adult evil-doers in her midst. And there’s telekinesis!
The first few pages of Matilda immediately and delightfully took me back to third and fourth grade where I could still hear the voices of my teachers reading the story aloud. Matilda is so special to me because she is a reader – she reads every single children’s book at her local library – something I desperately wanted to immolate. She helped convince me that bookish people would one day rule the world and were by far the coolest people in existence EVER.
Reading as an adult was definitely a new experience – a different experience, but still utterly worthwhile. You realize just how amazing a child’s brain and imagination works. When I was a kid, all of the really kind of overt cruelty and physical violence never phased me – instead, I just saw a funny imaginative story that made me giggle and root for kids to triumph in a world that often believes kids are silly and worthless. To know that Roald Dahl knew kids would be able to see his stories in this creative way – to know they would be able to enjoy and understand the serious implications of the story without making the book’s themes too heavy really speaks to his genius and understanding of the young mind. As an adult reader, I almost gasped at times during the cruelest moments – the physical abuse – the indentured slavery of Miss Honey and wondered about what had happened in the last 20 years to make my reading so very different. I gotta say – I miss the younger me who didn’t read colored by the reality of society – who read with innocence, abandon, and the ability to get lost in the magic of make-believe.
If, like me, you haven’t re-visited some of your childhood favorites – please do! You won’t regret it in the slightest and you might just find your way back to being the kind of reader you were as a child – open to any and all, grinning like a mad idiot, and believing that anything is possible in this great magic world we live in.