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by Roald Dahl

Matilda Chapter 1 Summary

The Reader of Books

  • The book begins with the narrator talking generally about how most parents think their own kids are the best things since sliced bread. 
  • See, the problem is, not all children can be the best thing since sliced bread. In fact, a lot of them are jerks in real life, and our narrator doesn't like that at all. 
  • Then the narrator starts talking about parents who are totally different: the Wormwoods, who don't think there's anything special about their children, Michael and Matilda. 
  • In fact, they don't give Matilda the time of day.
  • But if any kid ever deserved a parent's special attention, it's Matilda. She is, in a word, awesome. 
  • But the more Matilda achieves, the more annoying her parents think she is. She's a child prodigy, but they think she's a pain in the butt. 
  • (The Wormwoods are not the smartest of people.)
  • Matilda teaches herself to read and wants to read more, even though her parents just want to watch TV. 
  • On weekdays her parents leave her alone for a while, even though she's super little, so she up and goes to the library on her own. She's just four, by the way.
  • The librarian, Mrs. Phelps, helps her pick out books. First Matilda reads all the kids' books. Then she asks Mrs. Phelps to pick out something else for her.
  • That's when Mrs. Phelps realizes Matilda's special. 
  • So while the librarian treats Matilda like she's normal, she gives her highly advanced books to read. To start? Great Expectations.
  • Score! Matilda reads her first Dickens book—no sweat. She asks for more. 
  • So Mrs. Phelps builds her a reading list, and teaches her about the importance of reading. 
  • Along the way, Mrs. Phelps realizes that Matilda's parents are just the worst, but she doesn't really do anything to interfere in Matilda's family life.
  • After Matilda has read several books way above her age level, Mrs. Phelps gets her a library card. 
  • That means less visits to the library for Matilda, but she's reading just as much. 
  • She takes the books home, makes herself cozy, warm drinks (even though she's basically too small to use her family's stove), and reads every afternoon in peace.

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