In children’s literature circles it’s not all that cool to admit a genuine fascination for young Harry Potter.
One is supposed to point out that there are many hundreds – thousands – millions – of fantastic books for young readers that are equal to or better than Harry.
I suppose, one might grudgingly admit, that they have encouraged one or two boys to read.
One is supposed to sniff slightly at JK Rowling’s bringing together of several different genres and time-honoured themes into one package. Some fellow authors can get downright snitty about the whole thing, like Sonya Hartnett speaking to Rosemary Neill in The Weekend Australian:
“The celebration of the mediocre we have in this country is dispiriting,” she says. She objects to “this sort of rabid support of Harry Potter to the exclusion of so many other good books for children. It was fine for a couple of years until it crossed the line and became really sickening and stupid.”
A couple of months ago I was reading in a children’s bookshop and asked the audience who was looking forward to the release of Book Seven – and what they thought would happen. “This is not a Harry Potter bookshop,” the proprietor gently chided.
Told off good and proper.
But really – does Harry exclude other good books? There still seem to be bookshops filled with titles of all sorts including fantasy series of significant impact like Deltora; movies of The Bridge to Terabithia and His Dark Materials are block-busters; publishers are churning out more and more books every year and kids are lapping them up.
Don’t start me on the mediocrity of Eragon – book and movie – but Harry? It’s hardly flawless but the series is funny, and scary and complex and compelling, and it combines the best of so many possible and impossible worlds it’s a delight.
And millions of children around the world are truly and madly delighted. They are having so much fun – reading, debating, dressing up, fantasising, theorising, imagining, enjoying.
Would you really rather they weren’t?
Anyway I don’t care about the debate.
I am beside myself with suspense wondering what’s going to happen to Harry and Hermione. (My favourite plot spoiler is from Maureen Johnson.)
I’m booked to see The Order of the Phoenix at the weekend with two kids who seem slightly less enthusiastic than me.
I am desperate to know whether Snape is truly evil or part of a master plan, and whether my own personal theory about the mysterious initials RB will prove to be true.
If only I could remember what it was.
See you on the 21st, Hal.