Review of Matilda by Roald Dahl

October 25, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Matilda by Roald DahlMatilda
By Roald Dahl; Read by Kate Winslet
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Publication Date: 3 July 2013
ISBN: 9781611761849
[UNABRIDGED] – 5 hours

Themes: / fantasy / telekinesis / children / school / libraries / bullies /

Publisher summary:

Matilda is a sweet, exceptional young girl, but her parents think she’s just a nuisance. She expects school to be different but there she has to face Miss Trunchbull, a kid-hating terror of a headmistress. When Matilda is attacked by the Trunchbull she suddenly discovers she has a remarkable power with which to fight back. It’ll take a superhuman genius to give Miss Trunchbull what she deserves and Matilda may be just the one to do it!

This book made me so nostalgic for childhood, mostly because Roald Dahl is a wizard who can see through a child’s eyes but also because he was such a huge influence on me when I was a kid. Matilda was one of my favorite Roald Dahl stories, and hearing it narrated by Kate Winslet was amazing—probably the best narration I’ve heard. She colors every single character a fully realized personality, from syrupy sweet to hilariously grotesque. I think Kate Winslet is doing in narration what Quentin Blake did for Roald Dahl in illustration.

The story is Roald Dahl at his best: it is sarcastic and dark (featuring a bingo-obsessed mother, a dishonest father, and a headmistress who throws children out windows for eating in class) but it’s also hilarious, magical, and hopeful.

Matilda Wormwood is a very small, sensitive, and brilliant girl who has the misfortune of being born to gormless idiots. Mr. Wormwood is a rat-faced used-car salesman who’s really only interested in people who boost his ego. He seems allergic to his daughter, mainly because she is much cleverer than him. Mrs. Wormwood, when she’s not off playing bingo, sits around watching American soaps and thinks “Looks is more important than books!”

Matilda’s good morals and quick wits unsettle her parents, which makes them even more dismissive and neglectful of her. Her only escape is to visit the local library where she devours the whole children’s section in no time. The amazed librarian than helps guide the little girls through all the classics, from Charles Dickens and Jane Austen to George Orwell and HG Wells.

 “The books transported her into new worlds and introduced her to amazing people who lived exciting lives. She went on olden-day sailing ships with Joseph Conrad. She went to Africa with Ernest Hemingway and to India with Rudyard Kipling. She travelled all over the world while sitting in her little room in an English village.”

Reading all this literature awakens something in Matilda.  She realizes that she now has a view on life that her parents have not experienced and never will, and that there’s far more to life than cheating people and watching television.

But she’s only four, so she’s stuck with them, “no matter how asinine.”  To stop herself from going crazy, she beings to play mischievous pranks on them to punish them for every wrong they do. And when she starts school and meets even nastier bullies, she must use her brain power to develop new techniques for helping good people and punishing rotten ones.

I love the honesty Roald Dahl puts into his children’s stories. Children are often taught they must respect and obey their parents and teachers no matter what, as if we live in some utopia where all adults are intelligent, caring protectors. But Roald Dahl is not afraid to tell children the truth: sometimes monsters are real, and sometimes they look just like the people who have the most power over you or are supposed to care about you. People should earn trust and respect through their actions, not get it automatically because of their authority, age, or status.

Roald Dahl also teaches the other great wisdom: the world is full of idiots and oversized egos, and the best way to survive them is to keep your wits sharp and find the humor in every situation.

Posted by Marissa van Uden

 

Review of “Pop Art” by Joe Hill

March 10, 2010 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Take THAT, Reviewapalooza!

Horror Fantasy Audiobook - 20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill“Pop Art”
Contained in 20th Century Ghosts
By Joe Hill; Read by David Ledoux
12 Hours, 14 Mins – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Harper Audio
Published: 2007
Themes: / Fantasy / School / Mortality /

My best friend when I was twelve was inflatable.

This is a wonderful story. If I describe it you, it sounds absurd, and I guess it is. But through the absurdity, Joe Hill tells a poignant story. Arthur Roth is inflatable. Being inflatable means almost dying a dozen times by age 12. It means staying away from sharp things, including pens and pencils. Best to stick with crayons. Being inflatable also means that you are going to be picked on at school, because the bullies enjoy tossing you in the air like a balloon. None of this keeps Art from thinking big thoughts.

But then Art meets a friend who shares his bizarre life, and he lives fairly normally, except that death is always one puncture away.

Often science fiction uses aliens as a way to shine a spotlight on some aspect of humanity that the author wants to examine. This is fantasy, certainly, but the inflatable boy does the same sort of thing. He’s more vulnerable than the rest of us, but lives in the same cruel world. That the way he’s treated rings true lets us look at humanity from a slightly different angle than we would if the characters were all human. His finding a good friend rings just as true, and is perhaps the best thing the story gives us.

“Pop Art” stands out in a very good collection called 20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill. It’s read by David Ledoux. You can buy the whole collection at Audible, or you can buy just this story.

This was made into a short film. I found it |HERE| but I’m getting the old “not available in your area” block. Anyone know where I could watch that?

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Review of Simon Bloom, the Gravity Keeper by Michael Reisman

December 9, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Fantasy Audiobook - Simon Bloom, the Gravity Keeper by Michael ReismanSimon Bloom, the Gravity Keeper
By Michael Reisman; Read by Nicholas Hormann
6 CDs – 7 hours, 22 minutes – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Listening Library
Published: 2008
ISBN: 9780739363539
Themes: / Science Fiction / YA / Physics / School /

Ordinary sixth-grader Simon Bloom has just made the biggest discovery since gravity–and it literally fell into his lap.

This is just an ordinary universe with one little twist. There is something called the Council of Knowledge that controls everything in the universe — how it runs, events that happen, and things like this. One part of this group is the Council of Sciences, and part of that is the Order of Physics. A man named Ralphagon Wintrofly (or Ralph Winters, as other people call him) is the keeper of this group and very special book called the Teachers Edition of Physics. The group meets every week in a forest near Simon Bloom’s hometown, but this forest is hidden from people who aren’t in the Council of Knowledge.

Simon Bloom was never special in any way, just an ordinary kid at school who had average grades and no friends. He spent his time daydreaming, and hoping that something would happen to his life. He got his wish. He met another sixth-grader at his school (Owen) and they find themselves in a patch of woods on the way home from school one day. Simon accidentally calls the Teachers Edition of Physics to him, and now it calls him “Keeper”.

The book contains formulas for controlling the field of physics. Certain people want this book and it isn’t safe for long. Simon has to face the horrific Seerbetta who has formulas of her own. Simon and his friends must find a way to defeat her and figure out what the Teachers Edition of Physics is for.

Nicholas Hormann is the narrator of this story. He has a great talent for creating voices. The characters voices that he provided this story put an emphasis on their specific character. The females in this story sound a bit more male than female but it did not make it so I couldn’t understand who the character was.

I recommend this book to kids 11+. This is a great book to listen to for its mild intensity and its surprising scenes. I was surprised at what happened next and was always ready for more.

Posted by DanielsonKid, Age 14