The Genre-Bending Genius of Harry Potter
What's In Your Collection?
Thinking of holidays and gift-giving I thought to share one of our favorite collections, the Harry Potter series. Looking back over decades, I personally have many reasons for loving the books, one share by Rupert Grint, aka Ronald Weasley, in the 20th Anniversary Reunion of the Harry Potter Movies, “I have seen how this series has changed kids’ lives.” And I myself did not join the Harry Potter bandwagon until after book three was released, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
What's the Hype About?
As a reviewer for Girls’ Life magazine at the time, at the time I received and ARC (advance reviewer copy) of book one, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, and sadly I passed it over because I had other “similar” titles in my to-read pile and frankly the original cover just didn't appeal to me. So somewhere out are my advance reviewer copies of books one through three … heavy sigh. After book three, advance reviewer copies were no longer made available.
I finally decided to start reading after my husband got a copy, finished it quickly, then immediately bought books one through three. He was a high school teacher then, and one of his students had made the recommendation. After that I had to check it out. The rest for me, as they say, is history. My Harry Potter History. From then on, I became a die-hard fan.
The Genius is in the Story
In retrospection over decades, and in talking with other readers and book lovers, I have come to realize that the reasons I love and am passionate about this series is ultimately, in simplest terms, is for the storytelling. Not written for a market, just a tale conceived by an author with an idea. With adventure, suspense, fantastical yet contemporary realistic settings where readers could see themselves and be able to root for the good guys, and even some of the bad guys. And throughout every situation, underlying humor and brilliant wit.
I could not get enough of the story. Beginning in 1999, I read the entire series myself as it was published, having to wait painfully for each book. My husband and I were so fanatical we had to each buy our own copies upon release because neither of us wanted to wait until the other finished. When they were older, I read each book again, aloud, to each of my four children, except for my youngest who stopped reading out loud with me when we were in the middle of book five. I am currently collecting, and I know someday I will read the books aloud to my grandchildren.
No one foretold the books would change the children’s publishing industry
How and Why?
The series ended up defining a generation and forever changing the publishing industry? Its richly developed characters who grew throughout, even side characters, and became role models for kids and adults. As middle grade acquisitions editor at HarperCollins at the time, I was inundated with new book submissions for “seven-book series as in Harry Potter.” As a reviewer, I kept receiving press releases announcing “The next Harry Potter…” And I’m just like, no. Don’t go there. Harry Potter has become its own genre. And its genius is in the story.
What's the Controversy?
Harry Potter and series has been "banned," or rather "challenged," multiple times now. Originally the controversy was over religious, mainly Christian, as in the books were glamorizing witchcraft. I argued then and now think about "The Wizard of Oz," "Sleeping Beauty," "Snow White," fairy tales in general. Not to mention that Christmas is celebrated in the books, and the major point (spoiler!) of Harry Potter dying for his friends and thereby protected them from the forces of evil. (You can do a search for lots of debates and articles around this idea for more info.)
More recently, the books have been challenged yet again because of opinions held by the author. To that I say, have you looked up the "controversial" opinion and words spoken that caused the outlash? I encourage you to do so and form your own opinion. To me, it's simply an opinion, and whether or not I agree, if I love a book or series, the author's opinion would need to be really extreme for me to stop sharing the book love.
The Story Behind the Story
As an author, in case you haven't heard about it, I am amazed at the story of how J.K. Rowling came up with the idea. While traveling by train, with no writing utensils or devices, she conceived of the story from beginning to end. In an interview she said if she had something to write down her ideas, she never would have thought it through. E-editions were brand new at the time, and J.K. at the time brilliantly negotiated to keep all her digital rights. (See PotterMore.com).
Since then, the movies and additional spin-off titles have led to the creation of some seriously cool books (see My Harry Potter Collection sampling below and full reviews on Ink-a-Dink.com/blog). Before the movies, the audiobooks won award after award. As a journalist, I got to interview award-winning narrator of the Harry Potter audiobook, Jim Dale, who created over 150 unique character voices for each book. (Read my interview with Jim Dale on narrating the books, "Jim Dale: A Fly on the Wall." Listening Library; Unabridged ed., Ages 9+, Sept. 2007, 9780739352243)
If you haven’t seen it, I really enjoyed the 20th Anniversary Reunion of the Movies. For all Harry Potter fans, you will not be disappointed. In fact, you’ll probably want to reread the series or stream all the movies again.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
The one where Harry discovers he's a wizard, discovers his nemesis Voldemort, and has his first battle over the infamous Sorcerer's Stone, hidden somewhere in Hogwarts.... At its heart, Harry Potter is simply a well-written, richly developed story about a group of kids who battle evil to save the world. Harry Potter has become a classic, in the tradition of the best-told fairy tales that have stood the test of time. A tale of good-versus-evil, which can be enjoyed again and again. (HC): 9781408855898 ISBN(SC): 9781408894620 (Illustrated): 9780545790352
About Kim Childress
An award-winning editor and author of hundreds of books for children and their adults including Find Your Future in Art, Kim Childress is a product developer in children’s publishing, book editor for Girls’ Life magazine since its 1994 debut; former middle grade acquisitions editor for Zondervan, an imprint of HarperCollins Christian Publishing, who has maintained a successful career while raising a personal focus group of four children through diapers, doctors, broken bones, college, and plagues. More