Like Netflix's 'Matilda?' You'll Like these Gutsy Protagonists, Too | Read-Alikes

Characters in these four middle grade novels fight unjust rules and buck the school system, like Matilda. 


Matilda The Musical

PG. Netflix. Streaming now.

Roald Dahl’s classic was originally adapted to the screen in 1996. In Netflix’s new take, based on the Broadway musical, a gifted, white British girl challenges the abusive establishment at her school, Crunchem Hall. Emma Thompson plays the evil headmistress, Miss Trunchbull.


The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Pérez. Viking. 2017.
Gr 3-6–Twelve-year-old biracial (white and Mexican-American) Malu moves with her mother to Chicago, where she starts seventh grade by violating the dress code and falling into friendships with a loveable group of weirdos. When she and her friends start a punk band, Malu is determined that they should play in the school’s talent show, even though the administration doesn’t think punk music is appropriate for school. Recommend this spirited, contemporary novel to young readers interested in questioning authority and expressing themselves.

PICKLE: the (Formerly) Anonymous Prank Club of Fountain Point Middle School by Kim Baker. Illus. by Tim Probert. Roaring Brook. 2012.
Gr 3-6–After filling his classroom with ball-pit balls as a prank, Latinx sixth-grader Ben Diaz recruits classmates to play more practical jokes on the school. They name their prank club the League of Pickle Making to disguise its true purpose in this fast-paced, funny novel. Share this one with readers who delight in Matilda’s mischievous exploits.

The Report Card by Andrew Clements. Simon. 2004.
Gr 3-6–When standardized test scores lead her friend to think of himself as “dumb,” gifted white student Nora bucks the grading system at her school by bringing home a truly terrible report card for the first time. Young readers who resonate with Matilda’s innate sense of justice will appreciate Nora’s fight.

Ungifted by Gordon Korman. Harper. 2012.
Gr 5-8–When white prankster Donovan’s latest escapade destroys the school gym, his name somehow ends up on the list for the gifted school where he must try to fit in, even though he’s not a genius. Suggest this funny, offbeat school story to readers who enjoy unruly characters.

Abby Johnson is the collection development leader at the Floyd County Library in New Albany, IN.

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