‘Fred’s dead’, announced Middle Girl as she flopped into the car after school yesterday. Feelings of maternal inadequacy threatened as I searched my mental catalogue for the names of classroom goldfish and terrapins. The penny dropped when I spotted her book in the rear-view mirror and I genuinely felt her pain.
Middle Girl (aged 10) is currently (as I write) reading the last chapter of the last book in the Harry Potter series. Adding up to 4,224 pages, surely that is a milestone worth marking.My older children (aged 16 and 14) were lucky enough to read each of the books ahead of the movies. They read without knowing whether Harry would prevail or even survive, or who Harry would marry, or what he would name his first child. They read without knowing that Fred would die. They read without appreciating what a precious thing that not knowing was.
Before Middle Girl even started the books she had seen the movies thrice over (at least), built the Lego Knight Bus, played the Wii game and dressed up as Hermione for Halloween. Harry Potter isn’t just a book around here; it’s a lifestyle.
Middle Girl has been working through the books for a little over two years now. She claims that the movies didn’t spoil the books at all. She thinks that she would have found the books too scary if she hadn’t seen the movies first. There is no doubt that she was enthralled by the books. For weeks on end I discovered her asleep, the light still on and her heavy book propped on her lap. She lugged the books to school everyday so that she could read in the car and during quiet time. Nevertheless, I feel that she didn’t read with quite the same level of urgency as the others did. She was lacking the suspense, the ‘just need to know what happens’ factor. It seems a pity.My youngest sister is twenty-two which puts her in the original Harry Potter generation. She is a voracious reader who thinks nothing of tackling, not just big books but, huge series of giant books. I think that’s the Harry Potter legacy; a generation of avid readers.
When I was a young adult, there was no such thing as a Young Adult section in any bookshop near me. I graduated from Judy Blume to Maeve Binchy. I think it was J.K. Rowling who generated this huge market of young adults hungry for more books. The tough part is that a lot of those readers are disillusioned by the fruitless search for something that can match Harry Potter. Twilight, Divergent and Mockingjay have all been devoured by the Harry Potter generation but they just don’t cut the mustard.
Our poor, battered books have been through five readers now. Each of us, in our turn, held captive by the magic between the covers of these books. To have read them is a rite of passage within the family and Middle Girl can now count herself a fully-fledged Avid Reader. I am proud of her.
Only Small Girl (aged 3) is left. She has already watched the movies when we did the marathon last Christmas. But, I wonder, if I were to hide all the DVDs now and issue a ban on the movies, could I protect her from seeing them again until she is old enough to read the books? Is it worth trying?
What do you think?
What would J.K. Rowling think?