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'Children's' Books Have Message for All
When I was eight years old, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz turned me into a " real" reader as old Granny called us compulsive readers. It had everything needed to set a kid’s imagination on fire.
As others have written, I’m just wild about Harry--Potter--that is! The Potter books follow a long tradition of story-telling and have many elements in common with the Oz books, Tolkien’s Lord of The Rings and C. S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. There have both black and white magic, unusual characters and creatures, dangerous quests, tales of derring-do and grand adventures where the weak triumph over the powerful.
Some believe that the books are anti-religious or encourage belief in magic. In a Time essay, Lev Grossman slammed Rowling's’ books as godless. He praisied Lewis’s religiosity in the Narnia books which, indeed, Lewis intended to be "Christian" stories. He points out Tolkien’s ardent Catholicism as making Tolkien's books superior to Rowling's. What twaddle! I’ve read The Lord of the Rings many times, and see nothing especially religious about it.
"Eek!" other cry. "Ghosts and ghouls, witches and wizards, wars and horrible beasts! Oh, how traumatized the little children will be."
Good grief, Charlie Brown! What is the world a-coming to that we take every little thing so seriously? Children are wiser than we give them credit for. I knew that there wasn’t really a witch who was fattening up Hansel and Gretel before eating them, magical ruby slippers or the flying machine made of two sofas lashed together and sprinkled with magic dust in the Oz books.. Vicki knew that Lewis’s magical wardrobe through which the children passed into the land of Narnia and the cruel Snow Queen didn’t exist any more than Tolkien’s wizards, orcs and dragons. We knew the difference between reality and fiction, and so do today’s kids.
Unlike children, some fuzzy-minded, unimaginative adults confuse fiction with fact and go overboard about the Potter books as was done with the DaVinci Code. Others, including a smart-alec, Indianapolis radio personality trivialize them and poke fun at those who read them. I wonder if they’re literate enough to read a seven-hundred page book as did my eight-year-old grandnephew Aaron. There, take that! Another fellow who announced that he was going to reveal the ending on his radio show decided that this would be unwise after someone threatened to shoot him. Don’t mess with devoted "Potterers"!
The books build up to a very serious message in the final volume. If I had children whom I wished to be aware of racial, ethnic or religious prejudice and stand up and fight against it, I’d want them to read these books.
The world that Rowlings created is double-sided. There’s the ordinary, visible world inhabited by people like you and me who are called "Muggles" by the wizards who inhabit an invisible, magical world. At best, Muggles are thought to be stupid. At worst, they’re considered an inferior race by Valdmort and his followers who call them "Mudbloods."
Valdmort sets out to exterminate the Muggles. Wizzards with Muggle blood are forced to register with the government and may be sent to the dread prison Azkaban. The wife of a minor employee of the Ministry of Magic is put on trial with the awful Dolores Umbrage as the presiding judge. Tearfully, the poor woman tries to show that her Muggle ancestry is less important than her wizard bloodline. Some Muggles flee to places like Australia. The quest of Harry and friends is to slay Valdmort.
Does anything seem familiar?
Social Studies teacher Sherry, one of the houseboaters, asked me, "Rose Mary, what do you see in this last book?" "The Holocaust." I said. "Right on!" she replied.
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