I received this book for free from Penguin Audio in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
I never read Matilda as a child, but I do recall seeing the movie. I enjoyed the movie, so it was natural for this to be my first experience with Roald Dahl. Matilda is named for its heroine, an extraordinary girl who uses her mind to help her favorite teacher, Miss Honey. Now that I’ve gotten a taste of Dahl’s stories, I think I’ll be coming back for more. Penguin Audio is also making it pretty easy for me since I got all their new audio editions of his books in the mail.
Matilda is a brilliant child. She’s reading Dickens by the age of four! It was enough for me to get through Dickens at the age of twenty-two, though Great Expectations became one of my favorite novels after I finally got through it. Matilda likes it, too. She loves to read and she’s pretty wonderful at it. She’s also really good at math, which is what first catches Miss Honey’s attention. Miss Trunchbull, the headmistress, isn’t as impressed by Matilda. In all fairness, she isn’t impressed by much at all. She saves all her energy for making the students at Crunchem Hall miserable, and Matilda is getting tired of it.
The quirky feel and just-beyond-real plot is perfect for children. What I really love about Dahl’s book is that it’s enjoyable for everyone. The target audience is certainly children, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Something I often find very frustrating with children’s chapter books or middle grade fiction is the elementary writing. Yes, children should be able to read and understand the book; I also think it should be well written. I shouldn’t feel like I’m reading a children’s story the whole time. I should be so immersed in the story that I’m not even worried about that. Dahl achieves that. He wrote a book that’s accessible and enjoyable to a large range of readers. His use of the ridiculous or the miraculous among the ordinary reminds me a little of Lewis Carroll, though on a much smaller scale. I also got the sense that he has inspired a lot of children’s authors, and I can understand why. He wrote some of the most famous and lauded children’s stories in history. I can’t wait to read more of them.
This new audio edition was read by Kate Winslet. Hopefully, I don’t need to explain who that is. I think seeing her name on the packaging is another detail that led me to begin with this book. There’s no doubt that Winslet is a great actress. Still, I’m very impressed. She gave a fully-voiced performance, and those voices were awesome. The speech was perfect: syntax, pacing, emotional tone. It was all great. Major kudos for such a great performance. The production was mostly good. I liked the music. It fit the story really well. I think the volume was a little inconsistent. Miss Trunchbull was always really loud compared to the narration and the other characters. That’s a very small complaint. It’s nothing that makes or breaks the audio. In fact, I highly recommend the audio.
I think there are great reasons for reading this in print, especially if it’s a child reading. That’s just part of developing reading skills. IF you have some pretty small children who aren’t read for this text, the audiobook is a great way for them to experience the story. I also recommend it to anyone who might want to reread this book or experience it in a different way. This is a great book for anyone, print or audio.