The parents of the five-year-old Matilda Wormwood have no interest in their daughter, but if they did, they would have discovered that she is incredibly and unusually smart and gifted. Matilda taught herself to read at three years old, though the only actual books in the house were a cookbook and magazines. When she asks for a real book for herself, her father rudely turns her down. In spite of this, Matilda looks up the address of the local library, where she finishes all the children's books within a short time, thus leaving her to read adult novels, which she really enjoys. The librarian gives Matilda her own library card, and she is able to borrow books to read at home.