Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Revisiting Harry Potter

While I was traveling with Anna Mae last week, we listened to the Sorcerer's Stone on CDs in the car. I first read this book not long after it came out. It was required reading in a class in my MFA program. I really enjoyed the book then, but I think I listened differently this time, in part because of my granddaughter's presence (I was trying to hear the story from her perspective) and partly because my writer's mind is differently attuned to reading these days (I pay more attention to style, technique, and structure).

Apparently one criticism of JK Rowlings and Harry Potter is that Harry often disobeys rules and the directions of elders in an attempt to do something he believes is right. Critics believe this gives the wrong message to kids. That was one of the things my daughter asked us to look for in the book. It is of course a major feature of the character, Harry Potter, though I hadn't realized it before. This trait is often found in heroic characters, so the question becomes does it give the wrong message? I'm not sure I can answer that.

However, I did notice something from an adult perspective. I was amazed at how adroitly Rowlings depicts adult's blowing it in exactly the way that we all do, operating as we do from the assumption that we know best when in some cases the thinking of a child is much more clear sighted and fresh and in fact allows him/her to see wrong doing when we are missing it. What I learned is that I should listen more fully to children and not always assume I know best.

Anna Mae was making her own observations, paying more attention to how the kids were interacting with one another, be it supporting a friend or being mean in some way. Her criticism was mostly of Malfoy and his buddies who were the meanies, and she was aware of how the friends, Harry, Ron, Hermionie and Nelville, were a little odd, not fitting in with what would be regarded as acceptable and usual among the other kids.

So not surprisingly, we both listened to the book with our own filters on: she looking at the kids behavior and I at the adults.

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