I've been stupidly incapable of much more than fan enthusiasm for Harry Potter this week. Conversations about why Harry Potter is so popular, and why can't we turn this into interest into reading one series into an interest in reading in general, have got me thinking slightly more seriously. Plus Finding Wonderland has some interest musings Not About Potter.
But first, an anecdote. I was at my first ALA conference in a session on the importance of Science Fiction and Fantasy for young readers. One of the panelists, an author*, spoke about Harry Potter. She related a story of speaking with a neighbor child after 9/11. The child asked "Who? Who would do such a thing?" and the author was able to respond, "Voldemort would." She continued on to make the argument that fantasy fiction gives children a safe way to experience scary things and thus helps them handle actual scary things.
What I think is so significant is that there is this shared knowledge, shared language about Harry Potter. What else has united such a large portion of the world this way? (Just think what could be accomplished if we could harness all of that.) I lament the fact that there are people who feel they have to destroy that. It is perfectly acceptable to not be a Potter fan, that's free will, and the fact that everyone is different, etc. However, it is not acceptable that there are those who would degrade Potter fans and even worse that people are actually trying to take away from the experience.
A friend posed the question to me "Are there any books you look forward to as much as these?" I had to think about it and then I had to think about why? There are certainly books I enjoy as much, but none that I've anticipated quite so highly. Yes, I admit part of it is hype, but part of it is that I am not alone. Together, with millions of people I am waiting for a book!
And together, with all my fellow librarians, I rejoice at what Potter has done for children's literature and will continue to recommend all those fantastic books that don't get the same level of recognition. Maybe someday more magic will happen.
*I apologize I no longer know who it was.