(Image from Penguin)
For a girl who's been madly in love with books her whole life, it's amazing how many novels—especially classics—I haven't gotten around to reading yet. Really, it's embarrassing. The average high school senior has probably read more time-honored literature than this English major. Shameful.
Especially when it comes to famed children's author Roald Dahl. Up until very recently, I had read exactly one of the twenty or so books he penned for kids (he also wrote stories for adults, a couple of cookbooks, television/film scripts and an autobiography). One! So, when the good folks at Penguin Young Readers offered to let BBB help with a blog tour to celebrate the anniversary of Matilda's publication, I jumped at the chance. Could there have been a more perfect time to introduce myself to one of literature's favorite kindergartners than on her 25th birthday? I thought not.
If you haven't had the chance to "meet" her yet, let me give you the lowdown on this lovable scamp:
Matilda is the 5-year-old daughter of the deplorable Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood, who think of her as "little more than a scab." The two are too "gormless" to realize they've somehow created a child with a truly extraordinary capacity for learning. By three years of age, Matilda has taught herself to read; at four, she's devouring Dickens, Faulkner and Hemingway. Her abilities are not just limited to literature—every subject she encounters, she masters. Matilda's incredible knowledge surprises everyone except for her parents, who accuse her of making up stories to get attention. When the young genius starts school, she encounters two educators with very different teaching styles—kind, open Miss Honey and the nasty, narrow-minded Miss Trunchbull. As Matilda navigates this strange new world, she discovers some amazing things about the enormous power that lives inside every child.
Although Matilda isn't the absolute best children's book I've ever read, it is immensely enjoyable. I loved it because it expresses everything that is both difficult and wonderful about childhood. It's a story not just about finding the courage to be yourself, but also about using your unique talents to help people. And maybe teach some nasty folks a few lessons along the way :)
Because Matilda loves books, I was asked to write a little bit about how I discovered my love of the written word. Here's the prompt I was given:
“I think it’s safe to say that Matilda falls head over heels in love with books. She takes a wagon to gather them from the library. She hides away in her room and reads them for hours. She loves the worlds, the knowledge, the writing. What was it like for you to fall in love with books for the first time? Was it similar to Matilda’s experience?"
Because my house was always filled with books, which I often saw my parents enjoying, I was drawn to them almost from the moment of my birth. According to my mom, I learned to read before entering kindergarten and, well, I just never stopped.
Unlike Matilda's parents, mine encouraged my love of reading. My mom took me to our little hometown library often when I was a kid—just not often enough to keep up with my insatiable appetite for books! Since I couldn't persuade my mom to drive me down to the library (which was about 1/2 mile from my house) every single day, I frequently made the trek on my own two feet. I didn't own a wagon like Matilda (pity!), so I'd stack as many books as I could up against my chest and set out for home. The walk to the library was all downhill; not so the return trip. My whole body ached by the time I made it back home, but having a dozen or more new books to savor made the agony so very worthwhile.
Like Matilda, I used books for escape—not from a terrible home life, just from a childhood that felt a little too ordinary for this starry-eyed dreamer. I loved sinking into stories that allowed me to visit exotic places, meet colorful characters, and go on exciting adventures without ever leaving the safety of my home. I did what Mrs. Phelps, Matilda's local librarian, advises her to do: "Sit back and allow the words to wash around you, like music." To me, book words created the most beautiful symphonies of all. Still do.
What about you? Have you read Matilda? Was your experience with learning to love literature similar to hers? To mine?
(Readalikes: Matilda's story reminds me a little of Harry Potter's, while the tone of the book made me think of Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events books)
If this were a movie, it would be rated:
To the FTC, with love: I borrowed a copy of Matilda from my daughter. Thanks, babe!
Now, for the good part: To spread the Matilda love, the good folks at Penguin Young Readers are sponsoring a giveaway. One reader will win a Matilda-themed prize pack, which contains: a paperback copy of Matilda (the edition featured in the picture at the top of this review), one copy of the Matilda Broadway soundtrack (yes, it is a hit Broadway play—click here to read my author friend's short, but enthusiastic review of it), and a Matilda the Musical Broadway poster. Nice, right? Since I'm about to head off on vacation, I'm not going to bother with putting together a Rafflecopter thingie—just go ahead and leave a comment on this post saying that you're interested in winning. On July 10, I'll use Random.org to choose a winner. Please, please, please leave a valid email address in your comment. Your entry will be invalid if you forget this very important step. Also, the contest is open to readers with U.S. addresses only. Good luck!