Thursday, November 10, 2016

Matilda - Road Dahl

Anjali gave me a deadline once day. 'Read Matilda' she told me soon as she had finished reading the book and dumped it on me. I love Roald Dahl and had no problem picking the book up to read. In the process I discovered a few tips that Roald Dahl used while writing for children.

One classic line I learned from some great children's writer is - "Never talk down to children. You must always talk up to them." Superb. Let's see what Roald Dahl did with this book.

The story is brief. Matilda is a small kid who appears low on confidence. Quiet too. Her family is rather loud. In fact her entire environment is loud - school, principal etc. Her father is a dishonest used car salesman, her brother dotes on his father and her mother is an overbearing and loud woman. Matilda likes reading her books and devours book in the library by the dozen and is way too intelligent for her age. Her teacher Ms. Honey spots her intelligence and tells the principal to reward her. But instead the cruel principal finds fault with Matilda. In the end it turns out the Ms. Honey is saved from the Principal's designs thanks to Matilda's super powers.

Dahl has made all the characters who are authority figures really black. Matilda's life is lonely and sad and only Ms. Honey and the librarian Ms. Phelps are nice. The others are really horrid to her - perhaps that's the way we come across really. The villains are especially cruel. The story moves here and there and suddenly finds some course by the end. My big lesson - get into the child's shoes and don't preach. Make black really black and white really white. And don't over dramatise the sad parts.

My normal instinct while writing children's stories is to make them goody goody. They are not into goody goody - they have a clear sense of good and bad, white and black and that's what makes sense to them. Nice.

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