Next in line

I’ve just read two excellent books, the newish young adult novel Red Sea by Diane Tullson, and the newish children’s book The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo.  (I’ll write an entry about each of these books in the near future.)  Now it’s time for me to move on to the next book…which I have decided needs to be the 6th Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling.  We just received a donation at my library of a new copy of the book, and I felt compelled to take the book home to read while it was still clean and beautiful.

I read each of the other five Harry Potter books as soon as it came out (pre-ordered my copies from Amazon, even).  It’s not that I’m addicted to Harry Potter, or that I’m a huge Harry Potter fan.  In fact, a year or more ago I gave away all of my copies in one of many purges of my bookshelves.

But I’m also not a literary snob.  A wise and funny friend of mine often says that it’s not fair to hold children and young adults to higher literary standards than we do adults.  Adults often read bestsellers, books that are engaging but not fabulous, fun but not life-changing.  Why shouldn’t children and young adults have the same opportunity?  Don’t children and young adults have the right to take time away from the crunch of their school work and lose themselves in a quick plot and a fantasy world?  Wouldn’t we, the judging adults, rather see our young people turn to a book instead of a television show or the internet?  (The role of adults in the selection of and production of children’s literature is a topic that I’ll approach in future blog entries.)

I have no grudge against Harry Potter.  The only reason I’ve waited so long to read the 6th installment is rather lame, actually: the 5th book is SO large that I found it physically uncomfortable to hold while I read it.  But as a children’s librarian, it’s both my duty and responsibility to know and understand the literature that the users of my section of the library (children) seek out.  So, Half-Blood Prince, here I come!

One thought on “Next in line”

  1. 2 Responses to “Next in line”
    1. Dan Harper Says:
    June 15th, 2006 at 4:34 am
    I just read Half Blood Prince, and it sure did seem like far too big a book. But that is all the trend in series books these days — long, long books, 500+ pages. While I’m skeptical of the value of such big books, it’s interesting to talk with kids who have read Harry Potter — they really seem to like the length of the more recent books. Maybe there’s a social trend here to watch. What do you think, as a children’s librarian?
    2. Abby Says:
    June 15th, 2006 at 5:14 am
    Dan: True, there are many series books that are longer these days. Not all series book are long, though; I’m thinking specifically of the Lemony Snicket “Series of Unfortunate Events,” which is either as popular as Harry Potter or close to it, yet each volume is between 221 and 384 pages.
    I think that kids get praise from adults for reading long books, which is probably one reason that they like longer books. Another reason might be that a lot of the really long books are bestsellers, a quick read.
    In addition, I think the more important social trend to watch (as you put it) is that kids are choosing series books most of the time. Reading a book that’s part of a series is less demanding, since the reader already knows the characters and the style of writing and the type of plot. Less brainpower is demanded of the reader to interpret. My take on this trend is that kids are under enormous pressure in school and in extracurricular activities, and that those kids who read are truly using it as an escape.

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