Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Harry Potter: The literary Giant ...

Some people seem to be under the impression that "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" is a mere book.

They're wrong.

HP5, as many people are calling the fifth installment of the saga, is proof that the lowly art of novel writing can compete against the glamour and glory of movie making or sports.

It's evidence, in my opinion, that kids still have imaginations. Furthermore, it stands as a testimonial that parents and children alike can enjoy things together.

I came late to this whole Potter phenomenon - didn't even recognize his existence until about four years ago, when the third book was coming out.

A colleague of mine at the time (I was working at an ultra-small newspaper in Shelby, Ohio) was all jazzed up about getting this book, "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban."

I couldn't understand her enthusiasm. I mean, it was JUST A BOOK. A children's book, nonetheless. And she was all in a tizzy - going to get it the day it came out or something silly. A book, I tell you.

Now there was one cool thing about Harry Potter at the time. He sparked great discussions because some people said he was inspiring children to be evil pagan witches or something. And I recall thinking at the time that even it was was JUST A BOOK, it was nice to see that it was creating debate.

My love for debate is nothing new, you see.

So she got the book. She read the book. And she said Harry Potter didn't turn anyone into witches or wizards.

A year later, a fourth Potter book came out. And a year after that the movie of the first Harry Potter book - "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" - was made.

Now movies, those are more my speed.

I had heard a lot of good things about the whole Potter phenomenon and thought that maybe I'd like to take my daughter Emily to see it. Emily was about 4 1/2 at the time.

I had heard from some people that it was kind of scary and might not be really appropriate for Emily, which kind of bummed me out.

So I decided to test it. I'd read the book to see if it would be too much for Emily.

And if the book wasn't too scary, we'd go see the movie.

I got the book shortly before the movie came out in theaters, hoping to have it read before the movie came out.

I got it read before the movie came out, alright.

And I got the second book - which I flew through, straight to book three ... and four.

I read in public a lot, and people would politely ask was I was reading. I was always very receptive to telling them.

"Oh, I'm reading the third Harry Potter book. It's phenomenal," I would gush.

Some people would light up immediately. They understood my excitement.

Other would sort of roll their eyes or snicker: "Isn't that a children's book?"

Even my wife didn't understand at first. She was all trapped in her high-brow Oprah-approved novels. And here was me reading what could have been the equivalent of "Cat in the Hat" for all she cared.

But I got her to read one. And like me, she read all four lickety split.

Now, my wife likes to read anyway. I don't know if it's a woman thing or if she's trying to escape the boredom that I offer her or what. But she's always at the library getting something new.

Me? I write for a living so reading for pleasure isn't something that I tended to do.

But after I got done reading the fourth book I was into a cycle. I finished a book so that meant time to start another. And although it wasn't quite as interesting as

Harry Potter, I've basically been reading since I began reading that first Potter book nearly two years ago.

Harry Potter changed my life.

Okay, maybe not that dramatic, but it got me reading more. And that's nothing to scoff at.

So don't tell me that "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" is a mere book.

Especially if you haven't read it.