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Harry sends kids back to books • Wednesday June 25, 2003

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, June 25, 2003 (Opinion: Our View)

If children scamper off to bed with flashlights, decline a trip to the mall or turn off their Game Boys, you can blame — or credit — the beguiling Harry Potter.

Our View (Atlanta Journal Constition): Harry sends kids back to books

Equal Time (Richard Abanes): Fantasy tales can entice young minds

Deconstructing Rowling John Granger, author of The Hidden Key To Harry Potter, demonstrates the absurdity of the claim that Harry Potter is anti-Christian.

Harry Potter and the Great Christian Controversy (A collection of resources)

Harry and his prolific creator, J. K. Rowling, are working their spell again on millions of young and old readers. The weekend debut of “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” the fifth book in the saga of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and its denizens, set sales records worldwide. Scholastic says 5 million copies were sold in the United States within 24 hours.

Locally, kids lined up at midnight to snap up copies of the book and rush home to Harry Potter readathon parties. Besotted adult fans showed up bleary-eyed and on page 653 at Starbucks on Saturday morning.

More than a publishing phenom, the Potter books represent a cultural bottle rocket, sparking an explosion of reading among kids more typically stationed in front of the Play-Station or the computer.

And that’s the undeniable Potter magic.

Unlike the sophomoric humor of Captain Underpants or the simplistic plots of Goosebumps books, the Potter series is rich with literary allusions, labyrinthine plots and complex characters.

And the books are growing longer. The 870 pages of the latest Potter epic haven’t discouraged young fans, who describe the tome as darker than its predecessors and the teenage Harry as far more petulant. (One critic, writing in the National Post, described the hormone-addled Harry as the “Incredible Sulk.”)

Like Huck Finn and Waldo, the bespectacled Harry Potter has his detractors. The books promote the occult, according to parents who have demanded that schools ban the series from their libraries. And literary elites sniff that Rowling is a poor man’s Tolkien.

Critics aside, the books are teaching the habit of reading to a generation more attuned to flipping TV channels than pages. History may well judge that Rowling’s Harry Potter books fall short of great literature. But no one can deny that they’re great reading.

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