30 years of Roald Dahl’s Matilda

4 October 2018

Matilda is a great example that anyone, no matter how small, can stand up to injustice around them. A message just as relevant today as it was 30 years ago.

“Matilda’s strong young mind continued to grow, nurtured by the voices of all those authors who had sent their books out into the world like ships on the sea. These books gave Matilda a hopeful and comforting message: You are not alone.”

Matilda, the classic children’s novel by Roald Dahl, was published 30 years ago in October 1988. Since then, it has been turned into an iconic feature film, radio drama and an award-winning stage show with music and lyrics by Australia’s own Tim Minchin.

It is the story of a young girl, Matilda Wormwood, and her terrible parents, nasty headmistress Miss Trunchbull, and kind teacher Miss Honey. It is written in the classic Dahl style and abounds with alliteration, endless exaggeration, hilarious humour, pleasurable poems, and creative characters.

Matilda is a great example that anyone, no matter how small, can stand up to injustice around them. A message just as relevant today as it was 30 years ago.

The character of Matilda loves learning and reading, devouring one book after the next. She took a lot of comfort in the sanctuary of the library. A feeling I’m sure many of you have shared while you’re holed up in one of our branches on campus, surrounded by the remarkable potential of books.

Mrs Phelps, the librarian, was able to provide Matilda with recommendations for books she should read. By the age of seven, Matilda had read every book in the library! If you are ever unsure what books can best help you in your studies, we have many remarkable ANU Librarians who can help you find what you need.

Matilda was the final chapter book Roald Dahl wrote before his death in 1990. It is consistently ranked in lists of the best children’s novels, and continues to be loved by children and adults everywhere.

If you would like to read more about Roald Dahl and Matilda, ANU Library has a number of interesting resources in our collection including:

You can also read an interesting piece in Vanity Fair written by Mara Wilson, who played Matilda in the 1996 feature film, in which she discusses what she thinks Matilda would be doing as an adult. Her answer is near and dear to us here in the library.

In this article for The Guardian, children's book authors imagine where Matilda might be at age 30. With illustrations by Quentin Blake, frequent Roald Dahl collaborator, this article will surely take you back to the first time you read Matilda… maybe under the blankets with a flashlight in the middle of the night (or was that just me?)