In the library with Matilda

Posted by
Roald Dahl HQ
Posted on
6:00pm, 17th April
Roald Dahl's Matilda, illustrated by Quentin Blake

From 12 - 18 April is National Library Week in the US so Matilda Wormwood, The Reader of Books, is here to share some library inspiration...

In Roald Dahl's Matilda, her local library is the place where Matilda Wormwood can retreat and spend "two glorious hours sitting quietly by herself in a cosy corner devouring one book after another."

Matilda goes to her local library when her mother, Mrs Wormwood, is off playing bingo in Aylesbury - a place not far from Roald Dahl's hometown of Great Missenden, now home to the Roald Dahl Museum. In fact, the library Matilda visits in the story is based on one right at the end of the High Street in Great Missenden. This one, in fact:

The library in Great Missenden that inspired Matilda Wormwood's local library in Roald Dahl's Matilda

Librarian Mrs Phelps is the very first adult to encourage Matilda's love of reading and to hand her her first story for adults. Matilda is just four years and three months old, and the story Mrs Phelps picks is Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.

It's very famous and very good. If it's too long for you, just let me know and I'll find something shorter and a bit easier. 

Mrs Phelps on Great Expectations

With the help of Mrs Phelps's reading recommendations, Matilda's book list soon grows to include The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, Brighton Rock by Graham Greene and The Good Companions by J.B Priestley.

A selection of Matilda Wormwood's favourite books

Want more Matilda reads? Here is her full library booklist, as recommended by Mrs Phelps.

When Matilda says of Hemingway that though she doesn't understand everything in this books, she loves them for the fact that they make her feel she is right there on the spot watching it happen, Mrs Phelps says:

A fine writer will always make you feel that... And don't worry about the bits you can't understand. Sit back and allow the words to wash around you, like music.

As her reading list increases, Mrs Phelps tells her she can borrow books and take them home to read in her bedroom, with a warm drink beside her.

Matilda by Roald Dahl and matching mug

And so Matilda's world expands...

She went on olden-day sailing ships with Joseph Conrad. She went to Africa with Ernest Hemingway and to India with Rudyard Kipling. She travelled all over the world while sitting in her little room in an English village.

Without her local library, Matilda would have had no way to get her hands on all those lovely books.

Happy National Library Week.