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Matilda Wormwood is an amazing little girl in a horrible family. Her mother leaves toddler Matilda home alone all afternoon while she plays bingo. Her father is a very successful and tricksy car salesman. in fact, he is the personification of the stereotype, used car salesman.
The Wormwoods do not have a single book in their home ( I know, the horror, right?). They eat all of their meals in front of the television. When Matilda asks for a book, she is shot down. But that doesn't stop Matilda. She knows she's not like the rest of her family from very early on.
By the age of 3 she's managed to teach herself to read with the small amount of printed material available in her house. By the time she is 4, she starts leaving the house while her mother is off playing bingo. On one of her walks she discovers the public library, and her first friend is the librarian. The list of books Matilda reads is impressive. It would probably make a good reading plan for anyone. Before starting school she had tackled Steinbeck, Dickens, Austen, Kipling, Hemingway, Orwell and Faulkner, among many others.
When Matilda finally starts school she makes friends and finds a kindred spirit in her teacher, Miss Honey. The headmistress, Miss, or The Trunchbull hates children. She's a big, mean monster of a woman who enjoys tormenting, torturing and traumatizing small children.
Miss Honey discovers Matilda's talents and her less than healthy home life and she takes on a friendly mentor role. As Matilda's friendship with Miss Honey grows, she learns Miss Honey's sad history. Miss Honey had a father who loved her very much. He died when she was pretty young and her horrible aunt (The Trunchbull) moved in, took over and did the bare minimum for as long as she had to before turning Miss Honey out of her house.
Frustration and oppression in a brain that is not being stimulated enough leads to Matilda being able to do some pretty good tricks, moving things with her mind. Using her unusual powers she rights the wrongs done to Miss Honey by her Aunt Trunchbull. Soon after Miss Honey gets her house back and Miss Trunchbull's reign of terror is over and the school becomes a better, safer place for children. But, that's not all, Matilda gets her happy ending, too.
Apparently, the karma train is coming for Mr. Wormwood and he is gathering up his family and absconding to parts unknown. He's got so much to think about in saving his own hide, that he has no problem having one less concern and leaves Matilda in Miss Honey's care.
Matilda is perennially on the banned and challenged list, because, obviously Roald Dahl is evil incarnate, right? Why else would he write the books that have been amusing children of all ages for decades. Dahl has a way of taking children's sides in all of their many battles. No one escapes his notice and all pesky bad guys get what's coming to them. He voices kids' frustrations with the adults in their lives and even with other kids.