I can hear the gasps of horror from Potter fans all over the world. Trust me, this is the reaction I've received for many years. Let me explain my irritation with The Boy Who Lived.
I worked at Waldenbooks during the HP phenomenon when fans went crazy with passion to read each new book release. Do you remember stores opening at midnight to greet lines of customers who had camped out (yes, camped out!) on the sidewalks to await Release Day? Were you one of them?
Every single day.
Frankly, I didn't understand the appeal of these books. Our staff was required to read the first chapter of Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone so that we might have knowledge to chat about and sell these books to our customers. Honestly, I was unimpressed with J.K. Rowling's writing. I'd seen better writing. A lot better. Being in my early 20's, I had moved on in my reading choices and it wasn't a genre I was interested in at the time. Also, I was studying the writing craft and I had become critical and choosy about the books I read. That first chapter did not entice me to read more.
But, I continued my job, chatting with customers about this magical world and the witches and wizards who lived there. From these conversations, I grew to understand the stories, the characters, the plots and settings. Still, wasn't interested though.
Then the movies were released. At that time, my husband and I spent each Friday with our best friends for movie nights. I was out-voted and forced to watch the HP movies. Thankfully, Alan Rickman, made this endurable by far. If he didn't play in the movies, I'd really have had no reason to watch them. Alan Rickman was and remains to this day one of my favorite actors. And I loved his portrayal of Professor Snape. I loved him being a bad guy! He really played bad guys wonderfully!
Fast forward, many years later. My husband and I now had children and they were reaching the age that they'd become interested in these Harry Potter movies. I would read books to my kids at night, and one night my oldest asked me to read Harry Potter.
So, I read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone to my 2 young boys.
And, I hated it.
Now, I have 4 children between the ages of 1 and 10. I was singing lullabies and reading Goodnight Moon to get my youngest to go to sleep at night. After several, several, several weeks of reading Goodnight Moon every night, I asked the kids to suggest a new book to read. One of them suggested Harry Potter.
I groaned. Not again.
We finished the first book, and I made it through the second. Finally, I figured I could finish with the third. That was as far as I was willing to go.
But, something happened.
I don't know how, or exactly when (probably with the third book), I began to enjoy reading about Harry Potter. Actually, I was slightly disappointed with myself. After all these years of finding The Boy Who Lived irritating, I was starting to get interested in the books.
Okay, so it took JK Rowling about 4 books to make me a fan. After that, I was eager to keep reading to my kids, even after my youngest had already fallen asleep at night, I just kept reading to the older kids. Now, its became our bedtime routine for all of us to gather round the rocking chair after pajamas and teeth brushing are finished so I can read the next chapter. And that's how we continued our nights from March until October. This is actually the first time that I can recall that I read an entire series back-to-back. Most times, I take a break in between reading books in a series.
So, after completing each book from the series, my kids and I would watch the corresponding movie with a great big bowl of buttered popcorn and then compare the differences between the books and the movies. We'd talk about character and plot development. They'd tell me their favorite parts and the characters they liked or didn't like. Our discussions would sometimes take up our reading time at night.
To my amazement, I'm sad that we've finished. I want to read more! I enjoyed reading and living in the wizarding world so much that I feel bittersweet about finishing the books. Finally, after all these years (decades?) since my days of selling HP books, I now understand why my customers were clamoring for more. Writing style notwithstanding, these stories are good! Page-turning. Addicting. The story is the appeal. Not the writing style (adverbs!).
I'm now a Harry Potter fan. Yes, I admit it. But, I can honestly say that I never would have read these books if not for my children. I read them because they asked me to. I owe them!
Our Harry Potter year is finished, but our reading is not. We've established a routine that, frankly, I enjoy. I'm reluctant to end that, so this week we started reading a new book. I pulled together a list of possibilities, books that I loved to read when I was a kid. So many books on my list, but again, I let my kids vote.
They've chosen The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.
My children are awesome!
Are you a Harry Potter fan? What do you think of the books? Do you have a favorite? How about a favorite character?