Matilda: a book (movie?) review – Kate Mika

Throughout my life, I have seen many movies created from beloved books from my childhood, including, but not limited to: Holes, The Harry Potter series, A Wrinkle in Time, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, BFG, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Giver, The Lorax, James and the Giant Peach, Stardust, Where the Wild Things Are, The Hobbit, and many, many more!

These stories of books that have been later produced as films tend to be a polarizing topic.  Ask anyone their opinion; they might exclaim, “the book was better than the movie!” and begin spewing the inaccuracies that the hour-and-a-half movie represented—compared to its 250-page namesake.

Why do we vilify those who read the book after the creation of its film counterpart?  Is it not a wonderful thing that a multi-billion dollar blockbuster may have inspired someone—especially a child—to read a book?

Matilda-1To be honest, I cannot tell you if I read the book Matilda or saw the 1996 film version first. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that here at High Trails, I use the book Matilda while working shifts in cabin, reading the story a few chapters at a time to help my students fall asleep each night.  Many of these students excitedly exclaim that they have seen the associated film, and they look forward to hearing the story each night.  Reading this particular book has quickly become my favorite to share—not only is it an interesting story to wrap up a busy day at High Trails, but it also is a unique narrative that features an independent young girl, which is a great message for all 5th and 6th grade students to hear.  

(clip from Matilda – the best scene, the pancake scene!)

It is very likely that the film inspired my reading of the novel of the same name, and many other classic and imaginative stories by Roald Dahl.  The story of a bright young girl who seeks knowledge, and when faced with various challenges, (spoiler!) discovers her unique ability of telekinesis is not one that is 100 percent relatable, per se.  Instead of fostering my own powers of moving objects using only brainpower, the story of Matilda inspired me to read and keep reading throughout my life.  In fact, Matilda conquers a formidable list of books by notable authors, which includes works by Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, George Orwell, Mary Webb, and more—which became a goal of mine to conquer over my lifetime.


Matilda’s book list

The story can be simply summarized as follows: a young girl, named Matilda, grows to be exceedingly bright, learning to read, write, and master arithmetic at a very young age.  Her parents, callous and addicted to watching television, find Matilda irritating, and ignore her special qualities.  When finally enrolled in school, Matilda is encouraged to succeed by her teacher, Miss Honey, but encounters the child-hating beast of a headmistress, Miss Trunchbull.  At school, Matilda discovers her incredible power of telekinesis, and uses it to help herself, Miss Honey, and all the students at her school.


Miss Honey

Matilda’s brightness and aptitude for learning is fostered greatly by her teacher, Miss Honey.  Miss Honey is described as a gentle, quiet, warm, and understanding figure that graciously supports her young students as they nervously attend school for the first time.  She cares about the success of her students, and serves as a great reminder that teachers not only teach lessons, but also impart inspiration and moral guidance to their students as well.

At High Trails Outdoor Science School, we instructors are given the unique opportunity to teach hundreds of different students that change with each week, coming off the bus fresh-faced and nervous about the days to come.

In this short period, instructors like myself attempt to foster growth and learning in an outdoor classroom, much like the amiable, yet fictional, Miss Honey.


But, no two instructors at High Trails are exactly the same—we all have different styles and strengths in our methods of teaching.  One thing that I am certain we do share is that passion for fostering growth in our students.  After all, it is a wonderful and exciting adventure to encourage students to try new things, and with a little support and guidance, these students are able to do so.

While many of us may have seen the movie before reading the print version, I hope that the book Matilda serves as inspiration for my students and future students to keep furthering their own knowledge by reading for years to come. I can only hope that this story resonates similarly with my students as it did with me, and that they quickly move to pick up a book and read.

At High Trails Outdoor Science School, we literally force our instructors to write about elementary outdoor education, teaching outside, learning outside, our dirty classroom (the forest…gosh), environmental science, outdoor science, and all other tree hugging student and kid loving things that keep us engaged, passionate, driven, loving our job, digging our life, and spreading the word to anyone whose attention we can hold for long enough to actually make it through reading this entire sentence. Whew….

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