Me and my kiddo

Me and my kiddo

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Harry Potter Love

I've been reading a review copy of the expanded edition of Values of Harry Potter (which was sent to me by the author for free) and, at the same time, I've been reading the fifth book with my son (for the second time).  So, that makes it at least four solo reads of the full, seven-book series and almost two full reads with my son and, after all that reading, I'm inspired to just make some comments about why I love this series so much.

I connect with this series on a basic sense of life level.  This is a story where the heros are passionate about their values.  From smaller values like sports and pets to major ones like life and loved ones, the story is clear that values are worth fighting for.  There is no doubt that the characters are making very real choices and living the results.  This is the kind of universe that I most enjoy in fiction and can easily relate to my life.

Humor.  One of the great joys of this series is how beautifully the characters are crafted and that allows the reader to interact with them on a powerfully emotional level.  So, when I mention humor, we're not talking about superficial gags; the humor in this series is delightful and powerful too.  For example, I hated Professor Umbridge with every ounce of my being and couldn't have been more gleeful when she had to deal with the catastrophic results of the prankster twins  decision that her latest power grab deserved "a bit of mayhem" in response.
"The upshot of it all was that Professor Umbridge spent her first afternoon as headmistress running all over the school answering the summonses of the other teachers, none of whom seemed able to rid their rooms of the fireworks without her.  When the final bell rang and the students were heading back to Gryffindor Tower with their bags, Harry saw, with immense satisfaction, a disheveled and soot-blackened Umbridge tottering sweaty-faced from Professor Flitwick's classroom.  'Thank you so much, Professor!" said Professor Flitwick in his squeaky little voice.  'I could have got rid of the sparklers myself, of course, but I wasn't sure whether I had the authority...' Beaming, he closed his classroom door in her snarling face."  -Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
This scene is so powerful because readers know deeply how vindictive Professor Umbridge has been through multiple uses of her administrative power as well as how consistently gentle and agreeable Professor Flitwick has been as a teacher / peer.

Finally, I love the stories.  They are so inventive and beautifully woven together.  The good is really good and the bad is really bad.  It's not that there aren't characters that are mixed, but the choices that each character makes are highlighted throughout the story and the good guys win.

I have read several supplemental analyses of the Harry Potter series and I would most recommend Values of Harry Potter (Amazon Option) for gaining more from the books.  The essays each address a different aspect and are easily scanned for your area of interest.  In this newly expanded edition, I especially liked how Mr. Armstrong noted the two marks that Harry started life with, his scar and his mark from his mother's love.  Armstrong noted that we, as readers, could watch Harry struggle with the choices between these two marks as he grew i.e. between evil impulses from his connection with Voldemort and pursuing positive values like love.  Especially in book 5, when Harry is most strongly tempted to allow anger and frustration to rule him, he chooses a different path. It was pleasant to delve deeper in the psychological aspects of these novels while enjoying reading that remains easily accessible. As one of my other favorite fictional characters would say (Anne of Green Gables), this book offers a fun analysis without any "high falutin mumbo jumbo".

So, here's to a series where there's so much joy that it overwhelms the sorrow, where the laughs are strong, and where chocolate warms the soul.  This is definitely a series that bears re-reading and offers powerful lessons each time.

I love when he reads over my shoulder to make sure I'm getting it right.  He knows these stories well!

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