Last night I was lucky enough to be taken to see MATILDA, THE MUSCIAL. What an experience! From the moment the lights dimmed and the stage was transformed into a children’s tea party, framed by the tumbling books of Rob Howell’s inspired set, I was riveted. The music was joyous, the children were quite incredible and our little Matilda (Cleo Demetriou) was perfectly cast. But, of course, this has all been said by many, many people – and I do not need to emphasise how wonderfully the show has been directed and produced. Needless to say, go and watch! You will not be disappointed.
When I grow up I will be tall enough to reach the branches that I need to reach to climb trees you get to climb when you’re grown up.
Aside from the brilliance of the production, I was left contemplating the importance of Matilda’s tale in relation to my own experiences and aspirations. Particularly as modern distractions and library closures encroach on the realms of story and imagination, more and more children choose not to open a book. What a shame! Books are like water and sunshine to little sapling minds.
And when I grow up, I will be smart enough to answer all the questions that you need to know the answers to before you’re grown up.
At Hot Key Books we are all about ‘unlocking the power of stories’. We want to help children grow, in spirit, and in mind. We love stories. In whatever medium, a narrative that inspires, questions, and prompts responses is absolutely invaluable. Whether children are reading alone, encased in silent contemplation, or are sharing a book with a parent or friend, it is invariably within the pages of a book that most life crisis and problems are first encountered and engaged with.
I will be strong enough to carry all the heavy things you have to hold around with you when you’re a grown up.
Reading is universal – often children experience story telling as an act of love, but it can also be a chance to escape. As a little girl emotionally neglected by the adults in her life, Matilda finds deliverance and safety in the written word. Reality is interwoven with fiction; as the escapologist and the acrobat battle tragedy and injustice, so Miss Honey faces up to the tyranny of her despotic Aunt, Miss Trunchball. Life reflects art, and Matilda moulds and shapes her own story along with her imagined worlds. This is a gift that comes with devoted reading and is a kind of special power enjoyed by book worms the world over.
And when I grow up, when I grow up I will be brave enough to fight creatures that you have to fight beneath the bed each night to be a grown up.
Matilda makes sense of her world through fiction, but she also uses it to empower herself and her classmates. Knowledge and education are central to defeating the evil powers at work, at school and at home, the more that Matilda reads, the stronger she becomes – she is able to bend objects to her will, she defeats ‘the Trunch’ with her imagination alone. Stories can do this – they embolden and empower, they show children what can be done with will power and self-belief alone.
Just because you find that life’s not fair it doesn’t mean that you just have to grin and bear it, if you always take it on the chin and wear it, nothing will change.
There is a sense of responsibility in working in publishing. When a manuscript drops into our inbox there is an inevitable sense of anticipation. Maybe this will be the story that will change a child’s life. I hope that one day a child will be reading a book that I helped to publish and they will find that moment of inner silence and feel a little bit different, a small bit changed, and they will stand up taller and reach a little closer to the branches of the tree they want to climb.
(When I Grow Up – Written by Tim Minchin from Matilda the Musical)