PENGUIN READERS Teacher Support Programme
Matilda is a gloriously funny children’s book written by Roald Dahl, arguably the most successful children’s writer in the English language. In 1996, the book was made into a highly successful film starring Danny DeVito (also the director), Mara Wilson and Rhea Perlman. Matilda is about avery clever little girl named Matilda. She can speak perfectly at the age of one and a half, and by the age of four, she can read complicated adult books. However, Matilda has one problem – her parents are nasty! Her father is a dishonest car dealer, and neither he nor his wife takes an interest in their daughter. In fact, all they want to do is watch TV. Matilda decides to teach her nasty parents alesson. She glues her father’s hat to his head, and then tricks her parents into believing that there is a ghost in the sitting room. When Matilda is five years old, her parents send her to the local village school, where she finds a friend in her kind – but extremely poor – class teacher, Miss Honey. Miss Honey immediately realises that Matilda is a genius and tries to help her. However, it isdifficult for her because the headmistress, Miss Trunchbull, is a terrible bully and doesn’t like Matilda. Everyone is terrified of Miss Trunchbull – that is, everyone except Matilda! One day, Matilda realises that she has some very special powers, and she uses these powers to defeat Miss Trunchbull and help Miss Honey.
About the author
Roald Dahl was born in 1916 in South Wales, Britain. Hisparents were Norwegian immigrants. He trained as a fighter pilot, and during the Second World War, he flew bomber planes in Libya, Greece and Spain. In 1940, Dahl’s plane crashed in a Libyan desert, and Dahl suffered serious injuries. In 1942, Dahl began working at the British Embassy in Washington, DC. While working at the embassy, he met the writer C.S. Forester, who advised him to write aboutbeing shot down in a Libyan desert. Dahl immediately wrote his first short story, and ten days later, it was accepted for publication. It was the beginning of what was to become an extraordinary literary career. Dahl soon became a highly successful short story writer. His most famous short story collection is entitled Kiss Kiss, which was published in 1959. In 1953, Dahl married the actress PatriciaNeal, and the couple moved to England the following year. They had four children, the oldest of whom died at the age of seven, sending Dahl into a deep depression. Failing to overcome their problems, the couple divorced in 1983, and Dahl remarried several years later. In 1960, Dahl started writing stories to amuse his children. Many of his children’s books went on to become internationalbestsellers, and children from all over the world began writing to him. In addition, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Witches, James and the Giant Peach, Danny the Champion of the World and The BFG all became successful films, making Dahl one of the most accomplished children’s writers in the history of the genre. Dahl died in 1990 at the age of seventy-four.
Background and themes
Roald Dahloften said that the key to his success as a children’s writer was simple – to conspire with children against adults. ‘It’s the path to their affections,’ he said in an interview with a British newspaper in 1990. ‘It may be simplistic, but it is the way. Parents and schoolteachers are the enemy. The adult is the enemy of the child because of the awful process of civilising this thing that when it isborn is an animal with no manners – no moral sense at all.’ Matilda is an excellent example of Dahl’s philosophy. In the story, Matilda’s parents and her headmistress are conveyed as monsters holding positions of power. They want to hurt the children in their care. Like Dahl’s other children’s books, Matilda depicts the battle between good and evil – between bad adults and innocent, clever...