Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Thinking about Harry Potter...

and deciding to write it out.

I mentioned in a previous post that one of my sons has been asking to read H.P. for some time but I had told him that I wanted to read them first. When the first book came out in 1997, I remember a wave of furor in the Christian community about all of the wizardry, witchery, good/bad magic. However, I was grieving the death of my firstborn and about to adopt a child. Just living life was the immediate challenge and working through whether my children would read the series in the future was not important. The furor was not my interest.

Fast forward to now, I have boys that are interested in books. All kinds of books. They read a minimum of an hour a day and keeping up with what they are reading is uber challenging. Going to the library is challenging because they "have read everything." I depend upon book reviews and recommendations from friends as to directing them to good reading material. I have also used resources like Honey for a Child's Heart, Books Children Love: A Guide to the Best Children's Literature & Best Books: for Kindergarten through High School for guidance as well.

But I do not pretend to have read everything they have read and I am sure less than the "best" literature has slipped through. I am certain themes and ideas and language that I would rather them not be exposed to at certain ages has already happened and will happen again. When they present me with an unfamiliar book/author in the library I do the best speed reading skim I can before giving them permission to read.

Having said all of that, I did want to give a different treatment to the H.P. series this summer in light of all the furor (past & present) that seems to come up with this author and her work.

BTW, if you love all things H.P. do not take my remarks as bashing your affections, simply read them (or not) as one mom working through her thoughts and choosing the best she knows to for her own children.

Onward ho!

I thought the first two books were engaging and humorous with a balance of intrigue, suspense, villainy and values related to courage and friendship, loyalty and sacrifice. Kind of like Disney movie stuff. I remembered that some comparisons had been made between H.P. and the LOTR trilogy as related to good/bad magic issues. I could see that idea having just finished the LOTR trilogy this year with the boys. We read aloud every.single.page.

The third H.P. book seemed to take a darker turn and the ending monologue of Sirius Black, Wormtail, et al was tedious to me, but I did give permission for them to read through the third book. But not past that at this point because as the series progressed, I definitely saw darker characterizations, an increase in disputable language, innuendos and themes. None of which do I believe added extra interest to the story.

I get that Harry is "growing up" and his interests and moods are changing. But physical maturity does not have to mean a slide into more cursing, more sullenness, and more questionable behavior. That is certainly not the goal in our family for our growing boys. The emphasis on "snogging" in the sixth book is not really what I want the boys reading about right now seeing as the daily culture battle of purity already exists.

I do understand the power of the story. I laughed, I cried, et cetera. Because it is engaging to see the Star Wars idea of good versus evil played out in fantasy (and real life). I like to see the good guy with his white hat win in the cosmic defeat of bad guys with black hats. I also see the biblical allusions to the Ultimate Story being played out, most strongly in the seventh book. I did not see it truly consistent throughout the series and even wondered if Rowling added that element only after years of hearing the Christian community's criticisms of her story.

I don't know. I do not believe that reading about witches and wizards spurs a kid to try and become a witch or wizard. But I do think it is foolish to deny the pull of the genre. (Reference the blossoming vampire industry in young adult literature and TV shows. Remember Buffy? Angel?) I do know that if I were reading these books aloud to the boys, I would be doing a lot of editing which spurs my decision at this point that only books one through three are on the table. We'll take it one at a time after that and like anything, we discuss what we read around here as measured to the only truly Good Book.

Again, this is not a bashing of H.P. but this mom's take on the series for her kids. Although I appreciate a fellow blogger's tweet the other day that spoke to the effect that the upside of having a blog with stats lower than dirt is the decreased likelihood of offending anyone.

1 comment:

  1. Reading and discussing a book may be more beneficial than not reading it at all. But, I think prior discernment is essential because some material can cause lasting damage regardless of how positive the debriefing discussions may be. Keep up the good work! Blessings!