Friday, 15 July 2011

Good-Bye, Harry Potter

Happy Harry Potter Day! It's probably not officially HP Day but since the final movie has finally been released into theatres in Canada today I thought it appropriate to showcase one of, in my humble opinion, the biggest, most creative and addicting series of all time.

I am very proud to call myself a Harry Potter geek and have to admit to being a little sad that the whole HP experience is over now. I felt the same way when I read the final book which felt like I was saying good bye to an old friend. That's the mark of an extraordinary book. The characters stay with you for a long, long time and you're willing to re-read the books over and over (I've read HP four times).

If it weren't for JK Rowling, I may not have got the jumpstart I needed to get back into reading. I've been a reader since I was a child but when I started having kids my free time dwindled and the time I would have spent reading was now used to entertain, feed, change, wipe noses and, quite frankly, sleep! That all changed when one of my brothers-in-law, who taught grade 7 at the time, told me about a book series that his students were reading and couldn't stop talking about. He had recently read it and loved it so he suggested it to me. That's not to say that I stopped feeding, caring for my kids and wiping their snotty noses, I just made reading a priority in my life again and took time in the evenings to read once my little darlings were asleep.

When my brother-in-law first proposed that I read Harry Potter I thought it was a crazy idea. Me? A mom of 2 (at that time) reading a book kids were into? I don't think so. I'm too much of a savvy, cultured, experienced reader to pick up a book about magic, house elves,
Quidditch, patronuses, Death Eaters and pesky nargles. Ha! Apparently not. I devoured the first book and went on to read the entire series practically one right after the other. I just couldn't get enough of the 'boy who lived'.

One of the things that I love about Harry Potter is that my boys have embraced the series and it's something that we love to talk about together (7 year old "Missy Moo" hasn't jumped on the HP bandwagon as of yet). The boys (including Brad) and I watch the movies together and play HP Scene-It (although to date I have rarely been beaten. Mom's still got game!) and quiz each other on magical terms and spells.

To see my boys, back when they were only 8 to 11 years old reading these 300-750 page books was awesome! Together we learned about a fantastical, magical world filled with dragons, spells, people changing into animals, flying brooms, pictures that have people moving in them, Hippogriffs, a three headed dog, giant spiders, house elves ..... the list goes on and on! Rowling created a world that was so captivating that children and adults alike were addicted to the same books. How often has that happened?

It's no surprise that this book series has spawned a hugely successful movie franchise, a theme park, it's own vernacular and made JK Rowling a woman richer than the Queen of England! The reason? The simple fact that this was no ordinary book series.

Rowling has the unique ability to make readers vividly see the world she's created within their own imaginations. She describes it in great detail but in such an interesting way that you can't help but want to read more and more about this special world within our world. She also has the unique ability to make her characters believable. She was able to successfully give voice to the 11-17 year old Hogwarts students without sounding silly or unbelievable. That is definitely something that not all authors are capable of.

There is a sense of wonder with these books which is truly captivating. I love the fact that the books take place in modern times and that the magical world has been living along side the Muggle (non-magic) world -- we Muggles just didn't realize it. How cool is that!?! I was also intrigued by the fact that Harry is this famous wizard but never knew he was famous until he was introduced back into the world of magic at age 11. For his first eleven years, before he got his letter from "Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry", he was just a meek boy who was regularly berated and treated abysmally by the only family he had - his aunt, uncle and cousin, Dudley. As Harry learns about this new magical world we, the reader, learn along with him. Suddenly perfect strangers know who he is and are in awe of something he did years before that no other wizard was able to do.

With my love of all things Potter I have to admit that I'm still a bit surprised when I meet people who have never read the HP books. I know to each their own but its one of those series you just want everyone to read so they 'get it'. Some people just haven't picked them up, then there are others who are adamant that they're not going to read them. "I'm not going to jump on that silly bandwagon". Not sure why some people write off the series before reading it. Okey dokey. More room for me on the HP bandwagon!

I'm also surprised that some people never read the books and only watched the HP movies. I happen to sleep with one of the people in that group. For clarification, it's YOU, Brad. No worries. ;) While the movies are amazing and pretty darn accurate to the books I HIGHLY recommend, if you haven't already, reading the entire series. So many smaller storylines had to be omitted from the movies or they'd have to make each movie 6 hours long and provide dinner and a pillow. Plus, the books go into more detail and clearly explain some of the more confusing, detailed storylines (ie the horcruxes and Deathly Hallows). If Brad had read the books before we saw each of the movies (it was one of our annual date nights) then I wouldn't have had to give him a crash course in Potter-speak/storyline info after some of the later movies.

Some people don't read the books because they think they're too dark and evil. Yes, there are dark parts and scary creatures but there are dark parts in many books. Rowling didn't add the darker aspects of the books (Voldemort, Death Eaters, Dementors ...) just for the sake of shock value. When you really look at the series its actually about the power of love. It shows how love can conquer all - even the darkest evil. Plus, without some evil the books would have been boring. Yes, the books are filled with loss, people are hurt and some die. I like the fact that not everyone survives. It's more realistic and believable.

The reader also sees how Harry stands up for what's right no matter what. We see the importance and power of friendship, the strength of character one needs to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles. The power and enduring quality of a mother's love. The ability of a boy who was put down throughout his loveless childhood only to find love years later and build a new family - not made of blood relatives but of friends and people who respect him. The view that all creatures should be treated equally and not enslaved to serve more powerful beings. The fact that it's much easier to give in to a stronger, darker power and so much harder to stand up for what is right. The view that no one is infallible, not even our parents or mentors. That we may wrongly misjudge others. So many life lessons packed into one series.

It's with a little sadness and a bit of nostalgia for me and millions of others HP fans as we see the final movie in the franchise this summer. Good-bye Harry, Ron and Hermione. Good-bye Professors Hagrid, Snape, McGonagall and Dumbledore. Good-bye Weasley family, Neville, Dobby, Hedwig, Hogwarts,{good riddance to Voldemort} and to the wonderfully magical world created by Ms Rowling.

To J.K Rowling I have but two words for your amazing skill as a writer. In the unforgettable words of Ronald Weasley your series was "Bloody brilliant!!". Cheers to you Ms Rowling for an amazing work of literature and to a woman who did what some may call the impossible. Ms Rowling, your incredible story was able to get millions of adults and children to shut off their Game Boys, PSPs, Wiis and other technology for awhile to get lost in a book together.


shadowline said...

The mysterious ticking noise!

Kim - Liv Life said...

Love your post!!! I'm totally with you, and I miss Harry now that the story is over. I'm also a huge Potter fan and have read each of the books up to 4 times as well. First by myself, then read it to my son, and now I'm working through them again with my daughter. I'm always amazed as I pick up one of the earlier books when I see mentions of things that won't happen for maybe 2 or 3 books down the road. Rowling is indeed amazing.
I have a couple of friends who will not read the books because the "don't read things like that". I tried to explain that there has never been anything like these before and that they should at least just try.
My husband is the same as yours, though he did read the first 3.
I haven't seen the last 3 movies, they don't live up to the book in my mind and I know I will sob all the way thru this last one!
Loved your post!!

shadowline said...

Kim - the last three movies were quite well done. May not be 100% match to the books, but as Laurie commented, how could you capture all the details. I have to admit I found that movies 1-6 were always 'rushed' because they tried to cram so much into 2 hours... they did it right for the Deathly Hallows, splitting into two movies. Regardless, the movies on their own can be too confusing without the context of having read the books first.

I found the movies were a good compliment to the literary masterpieces. You should give them a chance too.

And, Brad - read the books! I'm not a big reader but I've read the series 3 times now... and I uncover new things each time I read them. Bloody brilliant.

Laurie@The Baking Bookworm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Laurie@The Baking Bookworm said...

Shadowline & Kim --
Glad I'm not the only person who'll miss the HP experience! I think I'm going to have to re-read the whole series again this summer or fall. It's been a long time since I've read the earlier books.

As for Brad picking up a book for fun?? I think I've beaten that dead horse a few thousand times. Not gonna happen, unfortunately! Shadowline, I'll tell him that you read them and maybe that'll hold some weight with him. ;)
Thanks for the comments! :)

Jackie said...

I too am a huge Harry Potter fan and a mom of 4. I love that JK Rowling created a universe within her books that both young and old can love. It has been a great family activity reading the books and watching the movies.

Anonymous said...

Well said! I am mourning the end of HP, as well. I began the series reading it aloud to my then 7 year old, and kept it going for a few years, until the final book was published. He has since re-read them countless times, and I have done the same. To further quote Ron "Excellent!"

Laurie@The Baking Bookworm said...

Jackie & Kirsten -- Thanks for your comments! :) Lots of HP fans here!!! Love it!

Janssen said...

What a lovely post. Oh, I adore Harry Potter. I'm about ready to read the whole series again!

oneordinaryday said...

Glad you led me over to read your post. I feel a bit lost without a Harry Potter book in my lap this week, and I'm very glad I've taken the time to read the series. Especially glad not to have relied on the movies to tell me the story. I would giddily sit through a mini-series length movie for each book, wouldn't you? Then nothing would have to get left out!

Laurie@The Baking Bookworm said...

Janssen - I think I'm going to start re-reading the whole series this fall. I'm feeling kind of nostalgic about HP.

One Ordinary Day - I would TOTALLY sit through 7 mini-series length movies if it meant that they'd include all of the minor storylines. That would be awesome actually! :)

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