Lately I'm going back and reading a bunch of middle-school staples, both because that's the unfortunate state of my attention span and because there are a lot of them I missed and I have to prepare for when my daughter is ready to read them...in like eight years. Gotta get a head start!
So yeah, I never read Matilda growing up - in fact, it might be the first Dahl book I've ever actually read. On this project I'm a bit understandably of two minds, since I'm thinking not only of my own enjoyment but whether I want my daughter to read when she's older, and I've got to say I was torn for a good chunk of the beginning. I mean, as someone who's always loved reading, though I've gotten away from it in recent years, I was absolutely smitten with Matilda's precociousness. I could actually read at age four myself, though I didn't teach myself and I wasn't reading Dickens (and I'm certainly not taking THAT as a goal for my own daughter), but the idea of a child reading so voraciously really inspired me (and shamed me) to get back into reading even more and find the joy in some of those classics that I put off because I associated them so much with required reading (is there any more harmful concept in education than "required reading"? I'm not sure).
On the other hand, I simply don't find practical jokes very funny, so a lot of Matilda's pranks on her parents really rubbed me the wrong way, and even though her parents were definitely a bad lot, her actions were a tad too mean-spirited for me, and aren't the kind of thing I would ever want my daughter to emulate or admire. Thankfully the second half of the book left these behind, and was pretty great - the over the top cruelty of the schoolmistress went a long way to putting the book firmly in the realm of fantasy to the point where Matilda's tricks were easier to take.