I'm almost finished re-reading The Half-Blood Prince in anticipation of tonight's release of the Final Installment -- and awash in a host of thoughts and mixed-feelings.
Recently, I caught the end of an interview on NPR about the appropriateness of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix movie for children. The speaker has a 10-year-old son who is a Harry Potter fan and a 6-year-old daughter who has seen the previous movies. After seeing the movie for himself first—good-responsible-parent idea—he has reservations about taking his son to see it because it is so much darker, with some spookier parts. Well, duh-uh! The movie is rated PG-13; the book, which he did read with his son, IS darker and spookier.
In other popular kids series (Alex Rider, Maximum Ride, Unfortunate Events and the classics The Boxcar Children, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys), the characters are static and even though, logically, much time has to pass in order for some of them to experience that many adventures, we suspend our disbelief as they don’t grow older. In past series where the characters do grow older (Anne of Green Gables, Laura Ingalls Wilder) they face the normal joys and sadnesses of life – not ever-intensifying Ultimate Evil. Kids and parents know what to expect, that each book is the same as the last.
Not so with Harry. His aging process of one school year per book is in synch for the kids who, as younger readers, joined in his adventure from the beginning and have aged in pace, or a little faster, with Harry as books were released. Now that readers will be able to gulp down the series whole, the later books may not be as appropriate for some new readers who are themselves closer in age to the Harry of the Sorcerer’s Stone. One more unique twist in Rowlings’ contributions in stretching the boundaries of “children’s” literature.
Now, my thoughts on two of the Big Questions:
Is Dumbledore really dead? Significant details: he's sleeping in his portrait, his animal companion Fawkes is a phoenix. Less significant detail: I don't want him to be dead. No, I don't believe he's really most sincerely dead. But like Gandalf or Obi Wan Kenobi, he may be translated somehow.
Is Snape really evil? Isn't it interesting that there has been a lot of writing on this question including a clever book The Great Snape Debate with arguments on both sides of the question with Orson Scott Card as one of the contributing authors. My own answer is No. I trust Dumbledore. I also want Snape redeemed to make up for his boyhood loneliness and James' cruel treatment of him. Snapes as a true Death Eater is too simple an answer. On the other hand, Rowling may be using the logic of Vizzini in The Princess Bride as he contemplates in which glass The Dread Pirate Roberts has put the poison Iocaine. And maybe the answer is just as tricksy.
I'm looking forward to tonight's communion with Harry Potter fans of all ages. I'll become, for a few hours, my alter-ego Professor Minerva McGonagall.
But I'm not sure what I will do afterward: what I have done after all the other midnight celebrations -- rush home and start reading and don't quit until I'm finished or hold off, not wanting the magic to end, whatever the end might be. In any case, I'm not ready to hang up my Hogwarts robe just yet.