Reading Was Boring–Until I Met Matilda

I was one of those kids who was always performing in front of his/her parents on top of the laundry basket/stage.
I never sang into a hairbrush. My thoughts – What’s the point? I need an actual microphone to amplify the sound. Yep. I was (and still kind of am) that kid.

But there comes a time in every child’s life when you need to learn how to read. Being the tiny, perky, ball of energy I was, reading was boring. You have to sit down for long periods of time and be quiet. There was no involvement, no reaction from others. You were the audience. Boy, was it lonely to be stuck with a book for a mandatory 20 minutes of homework per night.

Then, when I was around 8 years old, I was introduced to the movie Matilda starring Mara Wilson, Danny Devito, & Rhea Pearlman.

matilda 

A film about a girl who loved to do this drab activity. Her passion for reading and her love of learning intrigued me. I became enamored with the power knowledge gave her. I’m not talking about her physical powers (although those were pretty cool too) but the strength that came from reading a plethora of books on a variety of topics.

matilda2 

I mean who wouldn’t want eat cereal like this every morning?

Roald Dahl’s film-adapted tale made reading become a spectacle, grabbing my 8-year-old attention span and creating a new source of entertainment. Of course, I didn’t become hooked on reading right away, it was hard to find plotlines that captivated me. However, after watching the film, I began to enjoy going to the library. I started by reading Dahl’s Matilda then searched the shelves for other interesting stories.

matilda3 
Mrs. Phelps – “ You know you can have your very own library card that way you can take books home and you don’t have to walk here everyday.”
Matilda – “That would be wonderful.”

I had the chance to play my favorite character at the age of 12, both in a solo drama competition and later that year for the school play. I memorized every word in the book and movie. To this day, I still have the words ingrained in my head and quote them often.

Also presently, I keep up with the actress Mara Wilson, following her as a fan on Facebook. She’s a reformed child star who prefers writing and telling stories to being directed in front of the screen. She’s an intelligent, passionate woman and I enjoy reading about what the future has in store for her. Telling stories has also become an influential part of her life, (probably from her best film ever but I’m biased.)

Visit her website! – http://marawilsonwritesstuff.com/

After receiving the news last summer of being accepted as an Au Pair for a family in Paris, I saw the trailer online for Matilda the Musical opening in London. I HAD to go.

Through many trials I found an open weekend and scheduled a weekend trip for London, solely to see my favorite childhood story onstage. I didn’t share this fact with a lot of people. The weekend I chose also happened to be Opening Weekend for the Olympics so I hid behind that facade. At the time I didn’t know why I was scared to tell others outside of my family, but after pondering a comment from a friend, I think I get it.

Kale, a friend from grade school and frequent contributor to this blog, recently found out about my ongoing love for the film Matilda. I told him how I thought Matilda the Musical was one of the best I’ve seen in my life, (I’ve seen a lot of musicals and even if it wasn’t my favorite story, it would still have topped the charts.) Slightly shocked, Kale asked me if I liked that movie and I probably looked at him like he stepped on the tail of my new puppy.

“Of course, it’s one of my favorite films. I loved that movie as a kid. Didn’t you like it?”
The Muppets & Star Wars fan replies, “Oh. I always thought that movie was kind of scary.”

Scary?! For me, the characters in some of his favorite childhood movies were scary! I might have laughed. I wasn’t laughing at him but I was thrown off by his comment. It was the idea of someone else my age viewing the movie in a totally different way than I did. This story is near and dear to my heart, and I might not have shared the fact of travelling all the way to London to see it because of a reaction to the story contrary to my own.

Granted, the Trunchbull is one scary lady.

matilda4

Life lesson: Never wear pigtails on the first day of school.

But Kale’s comment got me thinking, why did I love Matilda so much? There are so many other stories about a lead intelligent, female character overcoming adversity who perserveres, (in Matilda’s case was adopted by her favorite teacher.)

Matilda5
Harry Wormwood signing the adoption papers that Matilda conveniently had in her backpack. Yay happy ending!

Why did I enjoy this particular story? I can list many different reasons, (one being the protagonist is a young, gifted, female child and I was 8 upon seeing it,) but I don’t think you’d see them in the same light as I do.
Some may see the dark side of Matilda, may think it’s even terrifying. But for me, this story jump-started a lifelong pursuit of finding, devouring, and telling great stories.

When I watch Matilda as I get older, I see the gloomy instances and themes running throughout the story. (Roald Dahl doesn’t sugarcoat, man.) But I can still view it through my 8-year-old eyes, a magical, exciting story that always makes me want to go to the library afterward.

What’s your favorite childhood story? Do you still feel a bond to it 10, 15, even 30 years later? Did it help you to connect and understand stories than others before it? Comment or post a response, I’d love to hear about it.

Tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.