ALAN v28n1 - What is So Magic about Harry?

Volume 28, Number 1
Fall 2000

What is So Magic about Harry? A Young Reader-and His Mother-Explain

Cole and Brooke Nelson

Cole's Perspective as an 11-Year-Old Reader

I've always liked to read pretty much any book as long as it involves some action. The reason I started reading the HP series is because everyone at school said if you started reading it you couldn't put it down. Once I started reading them, I got really interested, because I've always liked fantasy books like C.S. Lewis' and J. R. R. Tolkien's books.

They are more interesting than a lot of other books that might deal with stuff that's just plain facts. Fantasy books aren't real, but are fun because they deal with things that you could imagine could happen. Like in the Harry Potter books, the wands, flying brooms, and Quidditch games, you know they aren't real, but they are fun to think about. With the wand you could heal cuts without bandaids. The flying broom you could use so there would be no more pollution, and the Quidditch game is just so cool. It involves balls, goals, and players, but it's really neat because it is played 50 feet up in the air. It seems like it would be a little more challenging than our basketball.

All the gadgets and gizmos are really neat, but the animals in the books really fascinated me. Animals are always interesting to kids, and J.K.Rowling puts some very unusual animals in her books. The hippogriff and the blastended skrewts were very special and very different than any real animals. The hippogriff is a Greek mythological type of animal which has the head and talons of an eagle and the rear end of a horse - two of my favorite animals. The blastended skrewt can be described in one word, BOOM! Their back ends explode making them fly forward a couple of feet like a Civil War cannon.

If I could pick one thing to have of my own from the Harry Potter books, it would have to be a wand. My wand would be made of Beech wood with a Phoenix tail feather inside it, just like Harry's wand, but I don't know what size it would need to be. I guess I'd have to go get measured.

To the critics of the HP series, I'd say they are right to be concerned a little bit, because not all kids know and understand that it is fiction. But it's not real, and it's not meant to be real. It's just made to entertain people.

Cole's Mother's Perspective

I love Harry Potter. There, I admit it, but I know I am not alone. What is so darn appealing about this kid? About his friends? About his life? I began reading Harry directly after a particularly deep, dark, and oppressive semester as a returning university student, studying the idiosyncrasies of Eugene O'Neill, Tennessee Williams, and Edward Albee. J.K, Rowling's series was balm for a soul seeking a little magic, and I found enchanting magic in all four of her books: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban , and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire .

Rowling is talented at weaving a tale. Her work is so creative and clever, that you almost itch to get to the next page to find out what adventure Harry and his best friends, Hermione and Ron, will get themselves involved with next. And trust me, they get themselves into some doozies.

In spite of all the uproar from critics that Harry Potter is too dark, I believe that the Harry Potter series is no more demonic or dangerous than C. S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia or the childhood favorite Alice in Wonderland or any of the tomes in the J. R. R. Tolkien series.

My-11-year old would no more think he could fly 50 feet over the ground on a broomstick playing a game of Quidditch (as in the Harry Potter stories) than he would think that if he drank some potion from Alice in Wonderland he would shrink. If he has any doubts on whether he can fly or not, he need just ask me. I can tell him how I'd love to have a zooming broom, but in reality, we can only dream of it. He knows there is no parallel world full of witches, wizards, and a school of wizardry named Hogwarts, but he can visit there in his imagination.

To worried parents, I would say, "Read the books." They are fun. They are entertaining. In response to a local pastor's comments that "there is no good in the Harry Potter series, I would disagree. Harry, Hermione, and Ron not only stand up for each other, but they stand up for those less fortunate They show sensitivity and caring; who can argue with those values? They stick together when they face trials at school that are similar to conflicts all children face, whether it is a difficult teacher or cruel teasing by fellow classmates.

The bad guys are bad. The good guys are good. And hey, what a novel though - the good guys win. Good triumphs over evil. I believe that most children recognize the books' wizards as fantasy, and not real people. They are certainly much less violent than most characters on movies, television, or video games that the majority of our children devour with regularity.

What's not to love about Harry? I am all for the overwhelming interest in reading that this series has helped inspire. This summer, I even forced myself out of bed in time to arrive before midnight at the closest BOOKS-A-MILLION (18 miles away) for the unveiling and sale of the fourth book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire . I wait with anticipation for the fifth, sixth, and seventh books. I love literature, but sometimes reading can just be fun. Harry Potter is fun.


Cole Nelson, and his brothers Drew and Graham, live in Munford, Alabama, with their mother, Brooke, who is returning to school for a graduate degree and certification to teach secondary English, and their father, Tom, a veterinarian. In addition to reading, the Nelsons enjoy spending time in the mountains and streams near their home, and taking care of a terrific collection of family pets.

Reference Citation: Nelson, Cole and Brooke. (2000) "What is So Magic About Harry?" The ALAN Review , Volume 28, Number 1, p. 20-21.