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Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Harry Potter

Harry-Potter-Books-255pxHarry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, the first book in the Harry Potter series, came out a few months after Child #1 was born. In my sleep-deprived stupor, I didn’t notice for awhile; but it quickly became difficult to be a citizen of the world and not know about Harry Potter. Suffice to say, the first four books were in the house by the time that baby boy went to school, which is when and where he found out about Harry and friends. The requests to read the books became more frequent and insistent over the next couple of years.

We stalled. We tried to use the books as a bribe to get him reading independently (never do this—it doesn’t work and it’s terrible parenting). He was anxious to get caught up in time for the #5 release—the midnight releases/parties/mobs were well underway by then—and it started to feel like we were making an issue of something that didn’t need to be an issue. We weren’t troubled by wizards and magic. We were thrilled with the themes of friendship and the exploration of the subtleties of goodness and evil in the books. So what was our problem? Only that the books seemed a little old for our sweet and gentle little boy—they get progressively darker as they go, after all. We were anxious about introducing him to “more mature books” too soon. (First child, remember.) But culture clamored and he was getting left out because he didn’t know about Harry and Ron and Hermione, couldn’t attempt the spells on the playground, and didn’t catch the Dumbledore references.

So Dad started reading the series with him. This set-up had its own magic. The whole process slowed down. Dad (unlike Mom) usually doesn’t keep reading even as he is losing his voice. He has to be reminded to pick up where he left off three nights/weeks ago. And he was working nights and evenings during some of those years, which was prime reading time at our house. So they proceeded slowly. And together, which was good. By the time the final book came out, Child #1 was old enough to attend the midnight party and stay up all night finishing the 759 pages himself before he handed it over to his Dad. (It took Dad much longer.)

And by then, due to the hype at home and everywhere, Child #2 was interested in Harry Potter. She was an earlier reader and could have picked up the books on her own, but she assumed that Harry Potter was the book series you read with Dad! She is almost twelve now and she and her Dad are finishing #7 this summer. They’ve averaged about a book a year. I don’t believe she has read ahead, which I think is kind of amazing.

A good friend just asked me if kids can grow up without reading Harry Potter. (She was inclined to skip the series, not being a fan herself.) I said they could, of course. Many families make that decision for all sorts of reasons. I imagine it would be a little like growing up without seeing Star Wars in the 1970’s, which I did. It’s doable. Not always fun. But you eventually absorb enough of the story to get along….

As for me and mine, we’re awfully glad to have been a part of the Harry Potter hoopla. The kids will remember that they read these books with Dad, and that Mom, in fact, never really read past #3. (Shocking, yes!) We’ve enjoyed the audiobooks (Jim Dale is amazing!) and the movies, as well. But those heady days when nearly every kid and many of their adults were reading the same book at the same time…well, that was the best part, I think. Will we see that level of excitement and energy around a book series again? I don’t know. But I’m glad to have been a part of it this go around.

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9 Responses to Harry Potter

  1. Karen July 24, 2014 at 7:39 am #

    Loved this episode of RRB! When my kids’ older cousins introduced Harry to my oldest when he was 5, I had the benefit of my sister-in-law’s wisdom and insight (skip over anything you’re worried about, it will be fine). My family has loved these books; and I still re-read every single one in order as a kick off to summer vacation! The best book launch parties we’ve ever been to were sponsored by Northern Lights Books in Duluth for books 6 and 7 (yes, we planned a vacation to Duluth to be at that party) at the Depot Museum: high school chemistry students ran the potions class, a wonderful seer could see from her mind to my mind, a wild animal rehab specialist brought in a tiny owl, you needed to know a password to get in past the Fat Lady, and on and on — the details were astounding!

    • Melanie Hill July 24, 2014 at 8:33 am #

      Wonderful memories, Karen! And good advice from the sister-in-law. We’ve been lucky to have kids in this place and time, I think.

  2. Miriam July 24, 2014 at 11:40 am #

    Nice. Thanks!

  3. Vicki Palmquist July 24, 2014 at 1:57 pm #

    Looking at your photo of the book spines, the books got “fatter” around Book 4, didn’t they? A lot of adults I know lost interest then. I lost my sense of wonderment: Book 4 changed things for Harry and the gang and reading them wasn’t a breathless experience of joy. Harry grew older, I grew older, the books grew fatter, and things changed. It felt like growing up again, which is somewhat the point, I guess. So glad you and your family took such a measured approach to reading the Potter canon. It’s cultural literacy in a good way.

    • Melanie Hill July 24, 2014 at 2:02 pm #

      I noticed the same thing, Vicki. Maybe that’s why I didn’t make it past #3! But I think the fatness of the books was part of the enthralling thing for kids–they loved carrying around those huge books, staying up all night to read them etc.

  4. truenorth22 July 24, 2014 at 10:38 pm #

    We just started the who-knows-what-number listen of DH this evening, immediately on the heels of concluding HBP. I can’t imagine not completing the series and audio book is an excellent experience if the paper version seems daunting. We enjoyed the film adaptations, but much was lost from the story to package them for the screen.

    • Melanie Hill July 25, 2014 at 8:47 am #

      Much is ALWAYS lost on the film adaptations, of course. I agree whole heartedly on the audio book versions. Sounds like you and yours are huge fans! Enjoy the next go-trough!

  5. Deb Geiger July 30, 2014 at 9:14 am #

    I have fond memories of the four of us squishing together on OUR Child #1’s bed to read aloud from HP books…and sprawling on the floor of our living room, listening to Jim Dale audio recordings on CD which we borrowed from our public library…and watching road trip scenery float by as we listened to audiobooks in the car. As a family, we attended the midnight book release party for Book #7, and have seen all the movies together. I agree that it is a great thing to have participated in such a large-scale “community read”–but aside from all that, it has just been a great thing to share as an element of our family fabric!

  6. Melanie July 30, 2014 at 10:45 am #

    Indeed, Deb. It’s interesting to think of the books that make up a “family’s fabric”–love that term.

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