|Original Publication date||1 October 1988|
| Preceded by|
The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me (1985)
| Followed by|
Esio Trot (1989)
Protagonist Matilda is a girl of unusual precocity, but often ill-treated by her father or neglected by her mother. In retaliation, she pulls pranks such as gluing her father's hat to his head, hiding a parrot in the chimney to simulate a burglar or a ghost, and secretly bleaching her father's hair.
At school, Matilda befriends her teacher, Miss Jennifer Honey, who, astonished by Matilda's intellectual abilities, tries to move her into a higher class, but is refused by headmistress Miss Agatha Trunchbull. Miss Honey also tries to talk to Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood about Matilda's supreme intelligence, but makes no impression. Matilda quickly develops a particularly strong bond with Miss Honey. When Matilda's friend Lavender plays a practical joke on Miss Trunchbull by placing a newt in her jug of water, Matilda uses an unexpected power of telekinesis to tip the glass of water containing the newt onto Miss Trunchbull. Having learnt of this feat, Miss Honey invites Matilda to tea at her tiny cottage in the forest, where Miss Honey reveals that she was raised in part by a hostile aunt, identified as Miss Trunchbull, who appears (among other misdeeds) to withhold her niece's inheritance. In preparation to avenge the latter, Matilda develops her telekinetic gift through practice at home. Later, during a lesson that Miss Trunchbull is teaching, Matilda telekinetically raises a piece of chalk against the blackboard and, in the resulting writings, poses as the spirit of Miss Honey's late father, demanding that Miss Trunchbull concede Miss Honey's house and wages and leave the region forever. This is soon accomplished, and with the approval of the school's capable and good-natured new Headteacher, Mr Trilby, Matilda herself advances to the highest level of schooling. Rather to her relief, she is no longer capable of telekinesis; this explained by Miss Honey as the result of losing her mind in a more-challenging curriculum.
Matilda continues to visit Miss Honey at her house regularly, but one day she finds her parents hastily packing to escape from the police who have incriminated her father for selling stolen automobiles. Matilda asks permission to live with Miss Honey, to which her parents rather uninterestedly agree, and so both she and Miss Honey find their happy ending.
The novel was made into film in 1996, directed by Danny DeVito and starred Mara Wilson as Matilda. Although the film was not a box office success, Matilda received critical acclaim at the time of its release, and holds a "fresh" rating of 90% on Rotten Tomatoes. DeVito portrayed Mr. Wormwood as well as the narrator.
In 1990, the Redgrave Theater, Farnham produced a musical version, adapted by Rony Robinson with music by Ken Howard and Alan Blaikley, which toured the UK. It starred Annabelle Lanyon as Matilda and Jonathan Linsley as Miss Trunchbull, and had mixed reviews. A second musical version of the novel, Matilda The Musical, written by Dennis Kelly and Tim Minchin and commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company, premiered in November 2010. It opened at the Cambridge Theater in the West End on 24 November 2011. It later opened on Broadway on 11 April 2013 at the Shubert Theater. The stage version has become hugely popular with audiences and praised by critics, with one critic calling it "the best British musical since Billy Elliot".