I’ve been trying to re-read one of my favourite childhood books every month, so I thought that I would periodically update you about my thoughts!
In January I started off strong with Matilda by Roald Dahl. I recently re-watched the movie and last year I saw the play, so the story was pretty strong in my memory. But there were a couple of things about the writing and the illustrations that really surprised me.
First of all, HOLY FATPHOBIA. I had not clocked how fatphobic this book is in regards to Miss Trunchbull. A lot of her horror comes from her size – she does not look like a woman, especially in contrast to the tiny and petite Miss Honey. Miss Trunchbull is described as ‘She was a gigantic holy terror, a fierce tyrannical monster…’ Her fatness is intrinsic to her monstrosity. This made me really uncomfortable. (For more thoughts about this, I recommend Lindy West’s Shrill, where she talks about the fat characters she came across in her childhood.)
On an illustration front, the drawings by Quentin Blake were as delightful as I remembered. (I once got to see the originals, but unfortunately I wasn’t allowed to take pictures.) It might be because some people on Twitter talk about how the Miss Honey from the movie was part of their queer awakening, but I also felt like the illustrations made her look quite queer as well.
Finally, I was impressed with how readable it was, and how many difficult words there were. For a kid’s book, it had a really high vocabulary. I don’t want to be all grumpy and old and say that kid’s books don’t use language in the same way anymore but….. that might actually be true.
In February I read Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. I don’t know if this is technically a children’s book, but I read it about 15 times when I was younger, so I’m counting it. I’d recently re-watched the Studio Ghibli movie, but the two are so different that they can’t really be compared. (I’d definitely be down for writing a post comparing the two, if you’d be interested.) It was just as entertaining as I remembered, and I flew through it.
I don’t have too many thoughts on the book, but I did notice this time how intricately plotted it was, and how all of the strands of plot came together in the last couple of chapters just beautifully. It’s still a little chaotic, because there are so many characters, but it is supposed to be chaotic. I’d like to read more Diana Wynne Jones books to see whether all of them are like this.