Friday, August 12, 2011

What Questions Does Harry Potter Answer?

In the April 10, 2011, New York Times Book Review, a writer asked the question:  Why are vampire books and Harry Potter books so popular among young people?  The author, Dana Stevens, said that pre-teen and teenage readers are "poised between the powerless dependence of childhood and the frighteningly unmoored freedom of adult life."  Books in which children harness otherworldly powers to vanquish cosmic evil answer their most urgent questions.  Stevens says these questions are 

1.  What is my destiny?
2.  How can I know the extent, and limit, of my powers?
3.  Do the moral choices I make really matter?

I recall asking a version of those questions when I was younger.  Some of us try to develop our powers and create our destiny.  Others let destiny decide for them (or think they do).  We make large and small moral decisions every day.  They always matter.  Those decisions determine our character and set up the circumstances that lead to our next decision.

Another review in the same issue of the NYTBR said that books for children 3-7 asked these questions:  "Is there anything good about being small?"  and "Will I ever be as good as the big kids?"

My question:  What's with book reviewers saying that books ask (and answer) questions?
My answer:  Questions are everywhere, like math, physics, and love.

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