Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Nurse Matilda: The Collected Tales

Nurse Matilda: The Collected Tales

Christianna Brand
Illustrator:  Edward Ardizzone 
Fiction
For ages 8 to 12
Bloomsbury Children's Books, 2005   ISBN: 1582346704

There can be no doubt that the Brown children were dreadful. In fact, they were so dreadful that everyone who was hired to care for them - nannies, maids and governesses - quit. Anything had to be better than working in the Brown household. Poor Mr. and Mrs. Brown were at their wits end. What were they to do? They had far too many children for them to take care of alone. In fact there were so many Brown children that on one really seemed to know how many of them there actually were. Luckily for the poor parents, Nurse Matilda arrived on their doorstep.

Nurse Matilda was a rather unattractive sort of women. Some might even say that she was ugly. She was also not like any other nurse that the children had had. Nurse Matilda had a trick or two up her sleeve; magical tricks, which soon made life in the Brown household very different indeed. Whenever the children began to do something naughty, Nurse Matilda would bang her long black stick on the floor and something extraordinary would happen, which would make the children think twice about doing that particular naughty thing again.

This collection of the three Nurse Matilda stories takes us back to a time when families were large, when households had lots of servants to do all the work, and when parents did not tend to get involved in the doings of their children that much. Nurses, nannies, governesses and tutors were the ones who raised the children. Though these stories are certainly period pieces, they still have a universal appeal, a timeless quality which lets us enjoy the antics of the dreadful Brown children and the magic conjured up by Nurse Matilda. We can laugh at the awful things the children do, and delight in the lessons that Nurse Matilda comes up with to get her charges to behave like good and obedient children.

Edward Aridzonne’s wonderful black and white illustrations are found throughout the book, and they add a special something to this old-fashioned story with its magical charm.