This is an absolutely adorable story. Not great literature, but tremendous imagination and story-telling. Which is just as important, I think. People have urged me to read Harry Potter for a while, saying I would like the books for their human plight. Little Harry is abused and unwanted by his “adoptive” family (his aunt, uncle and cousin), until he learns he is a heroic and famous wizards in the magical world that thrives under London, where people above-street are “Muggles” and little harmless spells are sometimes permitted. But honestly? I liked this book for its disgusting surprise vomit and earwax jellybeans. And for the staircases that sometimes don’t lead where Harry and the other students at Hogwarts expect. And for the doors that want to be tickled in exactly the right place before they will open, and that sometimes are only pretending to be doors. And for the chess pieces that heckle their players! And for the prankster ghosts and the portraits that point, laugh, and whisper together, and for the guardian paintings that sometimes go out on social visits, leaving people trapped behind doors without guards. (All of which brought Alice in Wonderland to mind). Little Hermione with her anxiously uplifted classroom hand is adorable. The Quidditch chapter is innovative and exciting! (I could see the whole game! I love Harry dipping and lurching on his super-cool, top-quality showroom broomstick). The twist in the storyline when the “bad guy” is revealed had me rushing through pages!
All of the classes the kids go to felt so matter-of-fact I almost believed they could be real. Emphasis is placed, not on hocus-pocus, but on the stress Harry feels studying for tests, the rivalry between the students, the fact that he misses his parents (whom he never got to meet), his longing to fit in, and his annoyance with Hermione’s Type A personality and insistence that he study and follow the rules. Harry is a kid trying to do what every other kid does, fit in. He just happens to be doing this as a boy wizard who has only just learned he’s a wizard and is a bit uncomfortable with the palpable expectation everyone has that he will somehow make a difference. I love Dumbledore. I want to go to Hogwarts. The rivalry between the different houses feels so authentic, it is easy to forget the rivalry is between wizards and witches, and begin to believe that the magic part of the story isn’t the focus so much as the desire to succeed, to keep learning, to not be ignored or laughed at, but to be accepted. Even in a magical underworld, that is what Harry wants most of all: friendship, respect, kindness, and the love of two parents he never knew. I think ultimately (vomit jellybeans aside) that’s what I love about Harry Potter and Harry Potter coloring pages. Yes, it’s set in a ridiculous world that isn’t real. But that’s not really what the story is about. It’s about bravery, and growing up, and being a team player, and having a hero, and knowing the difference between right and wrong. It’s about ignoring those who claim you are nothing and stepping forward to make a difference.