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Matilda ​is an extraordinarily gifted four-year-old whose parentsa crass, dishonest used-car dealer and a self-centered, blowsy bingo addictregard her as “nothing more than a scab.” Life with her beastly parents is bearable only because Matilda teaches herself to read, finds the public library, and discovers literature. Also, Matilda loves using her lively intelligence to perpetrate daring acts of revenge on her father. This pastime she further develops when she enrolls in Crunchem Hall Primary School, whose headmistress, Miss Trunchbull, is “a fierce tyrannical monster . . . .” Adults may cringe at Dahl’s excesses in describing the cruel Miss Trunchbull, as well as his reliance on overextended characterization at the expense of plot development. Children, however, with their keenly developed sense of justice, will relish the absolutes of stupidity, greed, evil and might versus intelligence, courage and goodness. They also will sail happily through the contrived, implausible ending. Dahl’s phenomenal popularity among children speaks for his breathless storytelling charms; his fans won’t be disappointed by Matilda. Blake’s droll pen-and-ink sketches extend the exaggerated humor. Ages 9-11.

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