I felt a kinship with Matilda long before I ever read the book, mostly because the movie (named for the title character) came out when I was eight years old and was told by many that I could double for actress Mara Wilson. As an eight-year-old, this really drove me nuts because I didn’t want to look like a famous actress and I had also not seen the movie (and wouldn’t until I was a teenager), so it was with a fair amount of hesitation that I picked up Matilda from my school library two years later.
I was surprised to identify so strongly with this neglected little girl and was also surprised to feel jealous of her as she formed such a close relationship with her teacher when her parents finally allowed her to go to school. I was not moved to tears as my teacher thought (that was a case of pink-eye that stubbornly hid from the adults in my life for several days) but I found the story to be really moving and something easy to identify with. This level of identity came at a time in my life when I was facing a really intense struggle to feel like I fit in anywhere and I was so glad to consider myself to be friends with this little girl who – like me – liked to read and learn, used big words, and generally felt pretty isolated.
I learned from Matilda, much as I learned from Anne, that there is a lot of value in plowing through the crummy parts of life because overall it’s really quite wonderful and worth the long slog in the end.