“Bring us a basin! We’re going to be sick!” From the first page of Roald Dahl’s classic short novel Matilda (1988), you know you’re in for subversion. Right off the bat, listening to parents gloat about their “exceptional” offspring, the narrator threatens to heave. This isn’t the usual earnest kid stuff.

Matilda relates the story of Matilda Wormwood, a five-year-old English girl who is indeed rather exceptional, especially when it comes to exacting revenge on an adult world that has punished her for daring to read hard books and ask hard questions. It helps that Matilda develops telekinetic powers, as if she were a pintsize Ricky Jay, or Eloise at the Plaza with an assist from Stephen King.