I love the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling. If you haven’t read it yet, well, you best get on that. It is not something from modern society you want to miss. I have read the Harry Potter books, all of them, several times. I introduced them to my stepdaughter when she was 7. And just recently decided to begin the first book with Cedar.
He is about to turn six, so it seemed a bit of a stretch for him to understand it all. But we talk about it all the time and it is such a big part of our family culture that I figured we had better just do it. Two months ago we dived right in, and just finished it this week.
It was very remarkable to read the story again. While I have read the 5th, 6th, 7th books many times, I realized that I had only really read the first book twice; once to myself, and once to Talya. And after reading it again I remembered why. It’s a middle grade, childish, often poorly written, basic story that’s flaws are wonderfully covered up by a new and irresistible world.
As I read it aloud again, I found several things happening. First, for the first half of the book I could sense Cedar’s attention wandering off. I could just feel that he was utterly unconcerned with Draco Malfoy, the students classes, and even Snape. What caught his attention? Mrs. Norris, the cat. And Fluffy the three-headed dog. These things were delightful to him! Not quite what I had expected.
Second, because Cedar is so young, I found that I stopped often to explain a word, or reiterate what was being said. To make sure he understood. I also found myself changing words as I read. To make things flow more easily off the tongue. There are a lot of sentences that I would have written much differently myself, just to make better sense. As a person who is suddenly taking words a lot more seriously than I did even a year ago, I found that sometimes the flow of words was hard to spit out of my mouth. And I didn’t like it.
Third, I found myself getting choked up at certain points. Seeing Harry’s relationship develop with Snape, Hermione becoming Harry and Ron’s friend, and the various points when Dumbledore is present. But, I was not particularly moved by the text on the page in front of me, or what the characters got up to in book one. It was that I knew who these people were going to become. I knew their importance, their relationships, their truths, and I am still moved by the power of that.
However poorly written Rowling’s first book feels, she has done an amazing thing. She started with a middle grade reader that young kids can understand, that just barely touches the surfaces of what is really going on, and adjusted the book depth and age level dramatically as the characters grow up. That takes talent, and planning.
I’ll always love the series. I love reading them to the kids, and sharing that family time together. I love the epic struggle of good versus evil and that bottom line simplicity, all wrapped up in a pretty package. And whatever lacking Rowling had as a new mama writer, writing this original book that started it all, many years ago, I only wish I could do half as well as she in creating a sparkling world, drawing people in, and persuading them to read my story to their kids someday.