Tuesday, July 24, 2007

It's Here: Good, But...

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is here... finally! It didn't suprise me that there was a bunch of "hoopla controversy" a few days before the release. There always is... It's "almost" like it was orchestrated! First, someone releases a bit of the story, ostensibly who shouldn't. Then, the publishers and JKR come out with both barrels blazing, making threats and guilt-tripping with "how could you hurt the kids" stuff; all the time basically "nothing" was really given away, and definitely didn't harm the sales in any way.

The richest woman in the world, isn't inexperienced in controversy. It's happened with nearly every book. From witchcraft to atheism to having anti-American sentiment - people do have their opinions. Her first few books, I've actually found interesting and fairly "uplifting" in "moral's" and story line. They definitely were not in themselves promotional of "witchcraft." They were a bit of a stretch for a second or third grader; but, man what a temptation to read developed for the slightly older child. We all saw photographs of 9 - 12 year olds sitting and listening to a "reading" by the author. What a "photo op."

The books have, as no one will contest, gotten "darker" and more negative as Harry has gotten older, and his adventures more complex. However, there has always been the "mentoring" with Dumbledore - such as it is; and the obligatory heart-to-heart in which the old Headmaster explains moral principles - often love.

Much of the "Potter-mania" has been due to the fact that the book's setting is largely modern day and very understandable. Children can, and do, identify strongly with the main characters, because their activities and thoughts are almost like their own - except for magic, of course. This is in distinction to books like "lord of the rings" which are very dark and do "ring true" in the human dillemma part; but, don't contain characters that a child wants, or is able, to identify with as strongly as Harry. So, when Deathly Hallows goes on and on for chapters without ever "letting up," the little Harry's and Hermione's on your lap could very well get short of breath, be unable to sleep and be emotionally affected. The darkness and negativity of the seventh book is so strong that I have no choice but to say: it is NOT the best choice for children under 12.

I'm actually sorry, because I've been a staunch defender for close to 10 years. But, without doubt, the characters, the action, the story line - were NOT written for the same age-level of child that the first books were! That being said, although, for me, it wasn't a "fun" read, it was, however, compelling and thought provoking. No, it still didn't do anything to promote witchcraft or evil, in my eyes. Quite the contrary. And, Dumbledore wasn't there for his continued assistance. BUT, it did follow the "Joseph Campbell-ian" format, in that: the "mentor" had to leave in order to see if the "hero" truly had learned the "lessons." In essence we learned that Harry had brought the "mentor" inside himself. Truly, through Harry, Dumbledore spoke so loudly on the pages that he might have well been there.

I'm disappointed that JKR changed audiences like that. And, when I watched the camera's scanning the faces of eight to ten year olds in the audience at her "book release reading," to use the words of her Albus Dumbledore to Fenrir Greyback: "I cannot pretend it does not disgust me a little. And, yes, I am a little shocked..." She read the first chapter, where Voldemort (the evil antagonist) had magically suspended a hogwarts school teacher from the ceiling of his meeting room while he and his Death Eaters plotted the death of Harry. Then before his followers left, he cold-bloodedly terrorized her, killed her and told Nagini, his pet snake, that she was its "dinner." Do you really think that is appropriate for an 8 - 10 year old?!

Come on, Jo! I certainly would have never chosen THAT to read to 8 - 10 year olds! And, am sure most parents wouldn't either. Frankly, I'm suprised that you did. Perhaps the audience was really filled with adolescents and adults that weren't shown much; but, the publisher just wanted the "photo op" of little children; and, for us to believe they were the intended audience age. If so, SHAME ON THEM! But, honestly, I'm not sure which chapter in the book, you COULD have read to them. Perhaps, "The Ghoul In Pajamas" might have been nice, where Ron 'convinced' the ghoul who had lived in their attic for years to come down, put on his pajama's and sleep in his bedroom in order to convince everyone that he was sick with 'Spattergroit,' thereby giving him an excuse not to attend school this year. That was a funny chapter and well written.

Does this mean that the books haven't, or won't, be good for children to read? Getting them to willingly read over 4,100 pages! Of course not. The first couple of books, as I have said, are very entertaining, compelling and interesting for young readers, especially if read aloud with a parent or other adult. But, that's just it. They probably should be read just as JKR wrote them; namely, one every year or so, as the child grows and matures. Beginning at age 9 or 10. That way, by the time he gets to Deathly Hallows he/she will: FIRST - be of the appropriate maturity to recieve it; and, SECOND - be experienced and intelligent enough to understand it. I have to say that, in addition to being "exhausting" to read due to it's unrelenting action, this book has one of the most convoluted, complicated, and obtuse plots of any book that I've ever read! But, like the Dementor's kiss, it literally 'sucked' the will to STOP reading right out of me -- until the book was completed. Like I said, the action never stopped, involving characters I could care about and using the most novel of motif's over the most recognizable of themes.

I liked it... but, thank the maker it's over!

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