Children are (not) Maggots

“The books transported her into new worlds and introduced her to amazing people who lived exciting lives.” – Matilda, Roald Dahl

That, is the power of books. And that, is why I’m studying Children’s Literature. (Well, and because I love picturebooks more than children do!) Before I had the chance to take hold of a copy of Matilda, I came across the movie adaptation on TV one summer. I was seven. We have a copy of the book at home but I wasn’t entirely sure if I’ve actually read it. The story has always been so familiar to me. I reread it a couple months ago as an adult for coursework and was surprised at how different it is compared to what I remembered. I wrote an essay on becoming Miss Honey myself.

Last Saturday, I watched Matilda the musical with the Children’s Literature gang. I’m not sure if it’s normal but I cried, more than once.

***SPOILER ALERT***

No, I didn’t cry when I read the book or watched the movie, but the musical made me laugh out loud and brought me to tears. I loved the show before it even began – the staging was incredible! Book-like blocks of letter overflowed the stage, and if you look closely, you can spot words – it’s a great game for kids. Bookshelves were used as partitions, which in several scenes transformed the stage into a library. This is the best show for book lovers! The scene in which Mr. Wormwood tore up a library book appalled me; I gasped too loudly and was paralysed for a couple seconds…

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The pupils’ desks were hidden in the gridded ground. The first scene in the Year 1 classroom reminded me so much of teaching and my kids; little princes and princesses in their new uniform with their eager hands in the air (but instead of 9 pupils, I had 41 in my class lol). I cried when Matilda hugged Miss Honey for being nice to her. In Hong Kong, it’s ok for me to hug the kids and take pictures of/with them. Though it could be dangerous when group hug turns into an unintentional American-football-kind-of tackle, I do miss their smiles, I-love-you notes and drawings. I’ve kept most of them.

The songs were catchy and the lyrics were brilliant: addressing parents’ adoration of their precious little ones, empowering children, foreshadowing the reality/cruelty of school, and my favourite – looking forward to growing up. That made me cry. Swings were and still are my favourite. I remembered when I was little, I’d try to go as high up as I could (yup, I’m a thrill seeker since the age of 5), trying to touch the tip of the pine tree branches with my toes. When you’re little, you can’t wait to grow up and do things that adults wouldn’t let you do, such as “eat sweets every day” and “go to bed late every night”. Little did they know that growing up is a trap and the only thing you wish when you’ve grown up is that you never did. I cried again when Miss Honey sang her heart out in her cottage as the escapologist/her father joined her; it was so heartbreaking. I think music heightens emotion in a way that words alone cannot.

The musical was very faithful to the original text but with a few subplots; it’s all the better for it. Did I mention Miss Trunchbull was played by a man? Now that I’ve read the book, watched the movie, seen the musical and written an essay on it, I feel like my experience with Matilda is now complete.

“Never do anything by halves if you want to get away with it. Be outrageous. Go the whole hog. Make sure everything you do it so completely crazy it’s unbelievable.” Matilda is my hero!

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