Tuesday, June 12, 2012


Quibble time first. Why, oh why, did the powers that be insist on publishing this book with different titles in the U.K. and the U.S.? Are British children taught the finer points of alchemy at such an earlier age than American ones, that the former should be expected to know what the Philosopher's Stone was but the latter needed that patronizing little pat on the head about it.

Oh, and Quidditch. Foolish game. I can see where one needed to create a kind of Wizard Cricket for a tale of Wizard Boarding School, but did it have to be so grossly bizarre in its scoring? Anyway.

I can certainly see why certain fifth graders of my acquaintance, back in my substitute teaching/newslady days, were so very taken with this book that they played at being Harry and Ron and Hermione on the playground the way my own contemporaries (dating myself, of course) played at being Luke and Leia and Han. It's lovely to imagine that a child whose actual life is as neglected and deprived and dismal as every child who's ever not gotten his/her way always imagines his/her own life to be, is suddenly revealed to be the Most Important Kid, Like Ever and whisked away to become a great hero. Maybe that can be true for me, too. And I've decided to start calling that girl Hermione and chase her around the jungle gym and try to get her to kiss me.

I hurried to show said fifth graders where there was better stuff to be found in the library. And while there were not shelves and shelves of ready-made Halloween costumes and toys and companion picture books and other dreck to go with them (unless one wanted to hit eBay), these discerning kids mostly came to agree with me that those older books were pretty all right, too.

Is Harry Potter's world as charming as L. Frank Baum's Oz books, as gently edifying as C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia, as erudite and overwhelming as J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth Madness, as dark and portentous as Lloyd Alexander's Prydain books? It is none of these. It is modern and a tad bland and predictable compared to its ancestors, obviously written with an eye toward screenplay adaptation, but enjoyable nonetheless. I'm told the books get more challenging as they pile up, the idea having been that the series' original readers would grow up right alongside the Hogwarthians, and so I'll keep on reading for a while.

Because, why not?

I've now popped my Harry Cherry, and an amusing experience it was. Alas that I had already seen the film version of this first book, so never got the chance to cast the characters in my own imagination, but I'm not good at that anyway, and Hollywood and its partners did a fine, fine job. Any book in which I get to imagine Alan Rickman skulking around my head for a few hours is fine with me. Skulk on, Snape.


  1. By way of compensation, we had the Fighting Fantasy book 'House of Hell' but when it got across the pond to you, it became the less offensive but slightly more erudite-sounding 'House of Hades'...

    In the playground, I was always the emperor because then you could just point at people and cackle and they HAD to die.

  2. I'm not sure the Fighting Fantasy books even turned up in the states, but I grew up in bookstore-free Wyoming, so I can't be sure (Anyone?). I have a good Canadian friend @Laroquod who remembers them fondly, though!

    You must be a little younger than I; we played Star Wars when it was the one and only film. By the time Jedi came out, we were very grown up junior high kids. As such.


Sorry about the CAPTCHA, guys, but without it I was getting 4-5 comment spams an hour.