THIS world-renowned children’s novel originally published in 1988 has gone through various equally whimsical and heartwarming iterations, from the 1996 film to the most recent movie musical released to Netflix only recently.

Having grown up reading the novel and rewatching the original film nearly every weekend, it’s my hope that this latest adaptation will find a whole new generation of children. This fantasy comedy is not only bright and witty but also effortlessly carries an emotional depth, and a sense of hope that cannot be defeated even by the saddest of days or worst of villains. This is why the story sticks with you – in whatever form it takes – into adulthood and forms a desire to share its wealth of lessons with the young people in your life.

Matilda Wormwood is an extraordinarily intelligent little girl born into a family who not only refuse to appreciate and nurture her abilities, but who truly see her as an outcast. In the face of the emotional abuse of her parents, she does all she can to find sources of joy in the increasingly challenging books she reads from the local library. When she starts school at the age of five and a half, she’s introduced to an environment in which she may be able to thrive, making new friends, particularly in the form of her gentle and encouraging teacher Miss Honey.

When it becomes clear her intellect requires her to be pushed further and attend a class at a higher level, Miss Honey strives to help get her there, but these initial efforts are thwarted by the violent and bullying headmistress, Miss Trunchbull. It seems for Matilda that things aren’t going to get better, as she may have hoped, as she witnesses the cruelty of Miss Trunchbull to all the children around her – her strong sense of justice awakens in her an unexpected power. Matilda, now aware she’s able to move objects with her mind, is able to overcome the vulnerability of her youth and weakness and take power back from her parents and Miss Trunchbull.

Along this journey of facing up to the cruelty of those who once held their authority over her, Matilda learns how to wield her newfound magic and what to do to make her world, and that of those who have showed her kindness, better. The adventures she has along the way will have the reader rooting for Matilda at every moment, and with her sharp mind and kind heart, she’s someone that all young people can look up to.

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While the fantastical aspect of powers of telekinesis is not one children can relate to, the morals behind it are vital to keep in mind. In the face of bullies – whether they’re the same age or parents and teachers who abuse their power – it teaches children that the thing to be done is to hold on to self-worth and seek the help of an adult who is kind and trustworthy. The example here of Miss Honey is applicable to the kindness of many, who look out for the safety and emotional wellbeing of the children around them – a character so easy to connect to emotionally for the real and better teachers and parents she represents.

The story of Matilda is one that I read as a child in the late 2000s, around 20 years after its original publication, and which became one of my favourites. Now, in 2023, it feels just as relevant, fun and, most of all, hopeful, as it always has and I expect always will be.