Favorite Characters #1

matildasilo

1 Matilda Wormwood

Matilda Wormwood from Matilda 

We finally made it. Character #1. And it’s. . .some tiny girl standing on a stack of books?

Behold, ladies, gentlemen, and distinguished guests, the amazingness that is Matilda (based for argument’s sake on the book and not the movie, though they’re very similar).

She’s a genius, she loves to read, and she has telepathic powers.

Yeah, I hear you: so what?

Gather ’round, kiddos. It’s story time.

Matilda was one of the first books I ever read that resounded with me. (A mischievous bookworm with a penchant for clever practical jokes? I can’t imagine why). To this day I can look back on this simple children’s book and go straight back to the age I was when I read it for the first time. It’s magic.

I also believe it’s one of the main reasons why I often read and have high standards for children’s and middle grade and YA literature. The stories I read and identified with as a kid shaped me into who I am today. Don’t get me wrong, I as a (psuedo)adults can and do change my mindset over a good book every once in a while now too, but it’s not the same. Stuff marketed towards kids sinks in deep and stays there. In my mind, there’s no such thing as a “silly children’s book,” as I think anyone who has witnessed the impact of Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia, or the like can attest.

This story is smart, as is Matilda. It’s strong and interesting and well written and, perhaps most importantly, never ever condescending towards its intended audience. It is silly, outlandish even, but never delves into sickeningly sweet and pointless drivel. The over-the-top characters are both caricatures and brutally honest reflections of everyday elements in a child’s life: bullies, neglectful parents, kind teachers, apathetic older students etc.

But most importantly, Matilda herself learns about power, specifically the power that she has over her world. She makes decisions, plots and plans and debates with others and discusses ramifications at the age of six. She chooses her own destiny and, at the end of the book, makes a choice that changes her entire future. Because of this choice, she’s allowed to find her own happiness.

Now here’s the deal: not every kid is a telepathic genius. In addition, not every kid makes the best decisions all the time, in fact, from what I’ve seen, most of them make the absolute worst decisions at the worst possible times.

But the power of choice, and the idea that your choices matter at any age is a crucial lesson, and one that I think isn’t taught or modeled for children often enough.

Heck, I’m still figuring out how to take responsibility for all my decisions. And I’m lucky enough to have an awesome character from a children’s book to help me out.

*Aside: Thanks for sticking out Fav February with me. Next up: finishing Sue Games before the one year anniversary. Can it be done? Has I. C. finally lost it during finals week? Stay tuned to find out, right here on the Bloginator. (Yeah, that name is a lot better than “bloggy”).
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Posted on March 10, 2014, in Fav February and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Favorite Characters #1.

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