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Lit Circles - Primary: Matilda

About the book

undefinedMatilda by Roald Dahl

“The books transported her into new worlds and introduced her to amazing people who lived exciting lives. She went on olden-day sailing ships with Joseph Conrad. She went to Africa with Ernest Hemingway and to India with Rudyard Kipling. She travelled all over the world while sitting in her little room in an English village.”

Matilda is a little girl who is far too good to be true. At age five-and-a-half she's knocking off double-digit multiplication problems and blitz-reading Dickens. Even more remarkably, her classmates love her even though she's a super-nerd and the teacher's pet. But everything is not perfect in Matilda's world. For starters she has two of the most idiotic, self-centered parents who ever lived. Then there's the large, busty nightmare of a school principal, Miss ("The") Trunchbull, a former hammer-throwing champion who flings children at will and is approximately as sympathetic as a bulldozer. Fortunately for Matilda, she has the inner resources to deal with such annoyances: astonishing intelligence, saintly patience, and an innate predilection for revenge.

GENRE: Fantasy


  • Loyalty
  • Age vs Youth
  • Cleverness
  • Reward vs punishment
  • Greed

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Extension material

undefinedMatilda won the Children's Book Award shortly after it was published in 1988, and it has continued to delight audiences ever since. Early drafts of the story were very different to the one we now know. At first, Matilda was a wicked girl who eventually used her powers to help her teacher solve her financial problems - by fixing a horse race. In the end, though, it became the magical story now known to children the world over. 

In 1996 a film version of Matilda was released. Directed by Danny DeVito - who also starred as Mr Wormwood, alongside Mara Wilson as Matilda and Pam Ferris as Miss Trunchbull - the film went on to become a cult classic. 

In 2010, The Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Matilda The Musical, written by Dennis Kelly and with music and lyrics by Tim Minchin, opened in Stratford-upon-Avon, UK, to great critical acclaim. The production transferred to London's West End a year later, and in spring 2013 the show opened on Broadway.

Matilda was Roald Dahl's last long children's book.

Questions for your circle

  •  If you had powers like Matilda's, what would you do with them? Suppose you could move just one thing with your mind. What would it be?
  • Look back at a few of the different pranks played in the book. Are they realistic? Could any of them really work? 
  • Do you think there's too much violence in Matilda, compared to other kids' books? Is the amount of violence appropriate for most readers' age level?
  • How would you react if the Trunchbull wandered into one of your classrooms? 
  • Would you call the end of the book a happy one? Why or why not? 
  • Miss Honey explains to Matilda that the reason she had the ability to move things with her mind is because she was using so little of her brainpower in school. When she moves to the top grade, Matilda loses the superpower because her brain is finally being challenged. • Consider both options. If you were Matilda, would you rather be in a class that bores you and have the ability to move things with your mind, or be challenged in school in a grade that is more appropriate for you? 

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