Harry Potter Mania. As the days creep forward to the 12:01 a.m. release of the seventh Harry Potter book this weekend, I imagine it'll become all Harry, all the time on several websites and on television. Since when has a book EVER created such a buzz? And how on earth could someone EVER believe that's a bad thing?
Well, let me give you a couple of examples of people who believe that Harry Potter is, indeed, a bad thing. A few years ago when I was teaching fifth grade, a sixth grade teacher fielded a telephone call from a parent who objected to her using the first Harry Potter book as a literature lesson in her classes. The teacher asked me if I'd listen in to the parent's arguments, and ever the nosy person, I agreed. The father, who sounded intelligent, laid out his reasons in a clear, non-threatening voice: magic is wrong, it's against his religious beliefs, witches and wizards go to hell. No, he hadn't read the books but he'd heard about them and he believed his child shouldn't be exposed. My teacher friend agreed, though she tried to reason that the books were actually about good vs. evil to no avail. No harsh words were exchanged, and a different book was procured for the student. This was around 2001 or so.
More troubling to me was a conversation I had last week with a parent as the two of us worked a parking event to raise money for our daughters' band accounts. I mentioned in passing that we'd been to see Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix that afternoon. The mom, a very nice woman, asked me if I'd heard that the books were evil and we shouldn't allow our children to read them or to watch the movies based on them. Apparently her preacher had recently invested time and energy into denouncing the books as evil personified, complete with demons and all sorts of things which will turn our children to the devil. This lady was concerned because she'd allowed her daughter (a senior in high school) to read the books and watch the films.
I really really wanted to roll my eyes and scream, but I didn't. First and foremost, I'm against censorship, though I do agree that there are age levels that are more appropriate for some things than others. More than that, however, I'm against ignorance. So in the interest of being fair, I simply told her that my entire family had seen all the movies and so far we'd not practiced any spells, been possessed by demons, or turned away from God. (I did say this in my sweetest voice). I also said that the books were about good vs. evil, and I feel strongly that in the end, good is going to win, that love will conquer all. My final shot: Had she read fairy tales to her daughter? Those were just as scary (especially if you read the Grimm versions) and they all contained magic as well, so they'd better be shunned as well if you put aside Harry. She nodded and said she'd never felt the books or movies were bad, but what her preacher had said had made her wonder.
Wonder is a good thing, I'll add. But if you allow someone who has not read the books or seen the movies to dictate fear and unreasonable beliefs into your life, then something is wrong. Beyond all the wonderful qualities inherent in these books, anything that can get millions and millions of people so excited about READING A BOOK in this day and age simply has to be a good thing. And if you don't like them after you've read them, you're justified in your opinion. Just don't be a drone who listens to the ignorant.
All this said, I'm literally tingling with excitement to get my hands on #7. We're going to a midnight party at our local Border's, just like we did for #6. I'll hold the book tightly and race home and open it, and yes, I'll probably read the last page because I'm like that (it won't ruin the ending, I promise!). And no matter how I feel once I'm done (sad, disappointed, elated?), at least I can say it's been quite a ride and I'm glad I was there for it.