Hey! I just finished the latest Harry Potter book! And it was... well, you know... it was all right.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling (#28)
Like a lot of people who love to read, I have mixed feelings about books that become popular. On one hand, I follow the bestseller lists, and they definitely inform some of my reading decisions. But on the other hand, if a book gets Oprah-fied or if it becomes a runaway cult bestseller, I get irrationally ermy about it and refuse to touch it.
So, a few years ago, when a kids' book called Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone started getting all kinds of attention -- and allegedly encouraging thousands of kids of kids to read who wouldn't otherwise pick up a book, while at the same time drawing the wrath of fundamentalist Christians -- I won't lie. I was curious. But there was that darned bandwagon-phobia to overcome...
The decision was made for me when I was visiting my sister and her kids for a few days. I ran out of my own reading material and -- Hey! What's this here? That Harry Potter book? Why, don't mind if I do, thanks.
As kids' fare, I thought it was okay. Good enough for me to read the next three (my sister had bought the first four as a box set) and not consider my time wasted.
(You knew there had to be a "but" coming, didn't you?)
(Stop reading if you feel this passionately about the Harry Potter series.)
They're not that great.
Sorry, they're just not. I love kids' books, I really do. And I'm not one of those people who thinks there's a firm line in the sand between children's fiction and adult fiction. I have shelves of kids books that I re-read with great regularity. Books that I've loved since I was a young 'un and which -- at no small expense and effort -- I've sought out and re-acquired as an adult. But I have to tell you that if I'd read the Harry Potter books as a kid, I doubt they'd be on my shelf now.
Now, if you want some fabulous books about kids and magic, I can point you in the right direction. You've got your E. Nesbit over here, who was rocking the whole magic thing at the turn of the century (the 19th, that is) with a style and wit that remains unmatched.
And over here you've got your Edward Eager, a self-proclaimed E. Nesbit fan himself, whose Tales of Magic series, written in the 1950s, is still so fresh and funny and charming it takes my breath away.
And while it's a one-off rather than a series, Willo Davis Roberts's YA novel The Girl with the Silver Eyes -- about a young girl who realizes she has psychic powers -- somehow speaks to me more than Harry Potter does.
Harry... he's okay. And having read -- what? seven? eight? eleventeen? -- of the books in the series, I'm obviously in it for the long haul. I'll keep reading along. But I've read better, is all I'm saying.
If you've read this far without getting entirely pissed off, you might get a chuckle at what Mighty Girl has to say about her partner's HP obsession. Heh.