Thursday, January 17, 2013

"A children's story...

that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children's story in the slightest."
C.S. Lewis

In our house we keep a complete paperback set of the Harry Potter series. It currently resides in a tidy row on Derek's bookshelf, although it belongs to all of us collectively. I first heard of the J.K. Rowling phenomenon after the second novel was published, if I remember correctly. Not quite sure what all the hype was about, and partially skeptical about whether I would even find the storyline enjoyable (kids? magic school? what's that all about?), I picked up The Sorcerer's Stone. Well. Suffice it to say I was an instant devotee of Harry, his pals, and the whole Hogwarts realm. After devouring the first two stories in quick gulps, I had to settle in and wait for successive offerings, each time snapping them up and plowing through them just as quickly as I had for every previous installment. When it came time for the long-awaited, breathlessly-anticipated finale, I even pre-ordered it so the weighty tome landed with a resounding thud on my doorstep on the very day it was released. (Yeah, I said I was a fan, didn't I?)

When Derek was too young yet to conquer it himself, I read the entire series to him out loud, one chapter (or two, depending on how suspenseful the adventure was at that particular moment) at a time after dinner. Then Husband repeated the pleasant task for Riley, when he got old enough to join Harry's world (and though he was past the Bedtime Story stage, big brother surreptitiously would wander into the room and listen--raptly, I might add--as well). Meanwhile, Husband, Derek and I continue to revisit the tales from time to time, either starting from the beginning--as I did for several Summers in a row when Harry and his pals accompanied me to the pool--or just picking up a favorite to thumb through, in between school assignments or treks to the public library for new material. (And whenever one of us rereads a favorite, it still sparks Book-Club-like chatter...about the characters, the events, the whole "good vs. evil" conflict. So much to discuss!) The volumes have also traveled with us on occasion: long car rides, family vacations, airplane flights to visit grandparents. So the spines are somewhat cracked, the covers are a bit creased and tattered, and the pages are folded and worn in spots. It looks like...a treasured set of books.

To be honest, I think Derek to this day regrets the fact that he didn't receive his Hogwart's acceptance letter on his 11th birthday. (Yeah, I hear ya, son!). And he so very strongly wishes that Quidditch was a real sport. (He secretly suspects he'd be awesome at it. I can't disagree...) Recently, Riley decided that he wanted to tackle the books on his own. He picked up the first one...and buried his nose so far into it that he ceased communicating with the rest of us for pretty much the duration. Fortunately, it was Winter Break, as he rapidly progressed through Books 2, 3, and 4 without pausing for...much of anything, really. When school recommenced, interrupting his reading-for-pleasure schedule, he was forced to slow down a bit, but that still didn't prevent him from putting Book 5 behind him as well.

I observed this with amusement and approval, pleased that Riley had joined the Society of all Things Harry Potter, WestEnders Branch, at last. And I wasn't paying too much attention to the fact that he had plunged deeply into The Half-Blood Prince...or thinking about what tragedy occurs at the close of that story...until he shuffled into my room last night, eyes downcast, obviously trying to stifle tears. In his hand he carried The Deathly Hallows, unopened. He struggled to speak, with a heartbreaking catch in his voice, and after a few attempts finally managed to softly explain, "I knew I didn't want to get to the end of Book 6...I didn't want Dumbledore to die." As his eyes filled up and overflowed, all I could do was pull him into a sympathetic hug...and remind him that I, too, had cried when reading about the beloved Headmaster's demise.

A family of confirmed Biblio Nerds? Indubitably. But while my younger child may have acquired certain...foibles...from me (you know, impatience, emotional mercurialism, a tendency toward hyperbole, to name a few choice ones) at least I'm glad he's also sensitive, empathetic, and treats books like honored friends. It may seem like living in Fantasyland to those who don't share a similar mindset...but it's a nice place, and--with the exception of those instances when authors choose to kill off our favorite companions--we like it here!

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