Fri-Dahl Reads: Matilda!

Unless you’re living on the moon, you may have seen us mention that the 2016 Summer Reading Challenge is Roald Dahl themed; produced by the Reading Agency, delivered by libraries and this year working in partnership with the author’s estate to celebrate 100 years since his birth in 1916. The Big Friendly Read is currently taking place at libraries across the country (including branches within Norfolk) and if you or your children haven’t already signed up, you should make it a matter of importance to do so; what better way to spend the summer than by reading books, collecting stickers and eventually receiving a certificate and medal in recognition of this? Best of all- it’s FREE!

As we mentioned last week, our Friday Reads posts are having a much-needed rest over the summer holidays and in their absence, we thought we’d take this opportunity to revisit some of our favourite Dahl stories to tie-in with the Big Friendly Read. The first of these is written by one of our Senior Library Assistants, Apryl, who has chosen ‘Matilda’, one of Dahl’s most beloved tales and her personal favourite. She loves it so much that last year, she even had a Matilda themed birthday cake (which you can see above!)

Whilst browsing Twitter this week, I stumbled upon the shocking revelation that the film adaptation of ‘Matilda’ was released TWENTY YEARS AGO (in 1996!). This instantly made me feel very old; I’m 28, so not that old in the grand scheme of things, but this discovery still took me by surprise. Was it really that long ago?! I vividly remember seeing it at the Hollywood Cinema on Great Yarmouth seafront when I was in primary school, absolutely elated that someone had finally made a movie version of my favourite book. While I was a little disappointed that it was set in America and not an English village like my own, I loved every second and have revisited it many, many times over the last two decades.

Matilda1‘Matilda’ the book was published on the 1st of October 1988, 232 pages long accompanied by the distinctive illustrations of Quentin Blake whose work became synonymous with Dahl’s books. At this point in time I was only 6 months old and though my Mum had already begun taking me with her to the library, it took me a few more years to discover Roald Dahl’s vast work on the shelves of my local branch. Once I did, however, I was completely besotted and subsequently spent a large chunk of time gradually working my way through his books, collecting more favourites along the way.  

Like Matilda Wormwood, I was incredibly bookish as a child and absolutely adored visiting the library and having the opportunity to choose things for myself. There I remember encountering my very own Mrs Phelps who helped me find new and exciting things to read. At school, I had my own version of the encouraging Ms Honey who harnessed my passion for learning. Though Matilda’s story is at times tinged with sadness, the book’s underlying message that it’s okay to be different from everyone else still resonates and is one of the many reasons it’ll always have a place in my heart.

Matilda uses her love of reading to transport herself to different worlds away from her bedroom and dysfunctional family, and though ostensibly a children’s novel, it contains for me some of the most powerful sentiments about how transformative books can be for young and old alike, including this:

“Mr Hemingway says a lot of things I don’t understand, Matilda said to her. ‘Especially about men and women. But I loved it all the same. The way he tells it I feel I am right there on the spot watching it all happen.’

‘A fine writer will always make you feel that,’ Mrs Phelps said . ‘And don’t worry about the bits you can’t understand. Sit back and allow the words to wash around you, like music.”

I loved the film and the stage musical too (try and catch it if you ever get the chance, the songs will be in your head for weeks!) but like most things, the book is of course best. I’m sure Matilda herself would agree!

You can borrow a copy of Roald Dahl’s Matilda at your local Norfolk library or from our SLS eBook platform. There’s also lots of interesting information about the book on the Roald Dahl website just here.


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