Nearly every kid in America and half the world has read about Harry
Potter, and by the time this gets printed, several million of them will
have seen the movie, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone." I am
going to skip the movie for now and stick to my mental picture of Harry
flying through the air on his Nimbus 4000.
Children's books have been sparking the imagination of kids and bringing
them joy for over a century and, to my knowledge no kid has ever been
ruined by a fairy tale. The Faultless Starch Co. booklet titled "A
Trip to the Moon" from the 1890's is about a boy named Robbie who is
taken to the moon on a moonbeam by elves. These booklets were
distributed to rural homes by peddlers via horse and wagon. I'll bet my
dad read them between chores on the farm in Illinois.
I grew up with lots of witches and goblins and fairies, starting with
Mother Goose and Hans Christian Anderson and the Wizard of Oz. I knew
that the fairies weren't real, that the Wizard and the Tin Woodman
weren't real and that the Wicked Witch of the West got her
comeuppance, but somehow I survived that wonderful world of fantasy
without serious damage to my psyche, and perhaps it helped me keep some
of my child through the years.
The Boomer generation grew up on the same books, with a lot of wonderful
new ones. But in spite of the wizards and witches and fairies, all
those children who read them hung on to their sense of reality and
turned into solid citizens, or most of them did.
But now in the 21st century witches and goblins and fantasy we all grew
up with have turned evil according to some adults and are being
protested as threats to the children's souls. We have Harry Potter,
whom the kids love so dearly, but who scares some of the Muggles.
Several groups of Evangelical Christians are protesting the wonderful
fantasy of Harry Potter because they believe that witchcraft is real,
and that children are being led into Satanism. Certainly parents who
feel that way should not let their children read about Harry or
probably anybody else.
But as for the rest of us, when people protest a series of books that
has given untold joy and has made wildly enthusiastic readers out of
millions of kids, and fans out of millions of adults, that's going too
far. According to the American Library Association' statistics, the
Potter books topped the banned book list in 2000. I have a major
problem with any kind of censorship, but this is beyond ridiculous.
This generation's kid hero is a delightful orphan who finds that he is a
wizard and attends the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. He
is a brave, loyal, honest and very smart wizard. Naturally, the good
guys always win in the end.
John Monk, an editorial writer in South Carolina got very indignant.
"Some claim the Potter books lure children into witchcraft. Poppycock.
You might as well say Gone With the Wind teaches young readers to be
slave owners, or Peter Pan urges children to run away from home. If we
ban these books, a dark force stands to be unleashed. It's not the
occult. It's ignorance."
Author Judy Blame, who has had more experience than most with having her
much loved children's books censored, protested and torn up was not
surprised at the protest. "I knew this was coming. The only surprise
is that it took so long for the zealots who claim they're protecting
children from evil to discover that children actually like these books.
"At the rate we're going, I can imagine next year's headline:
'Goodnight Moon", Banned for Encouraging Children to Communicate with
A hundred years ago Robbie was being taken to the moon on a moonbeam
by elves. Now Harry Potter, who is a bona fide wizard, is playing
Quiddich, helping his friends when they need it and giving today's
electronic whiz kids a taste of adventure that doesn't need batteries.
Go for it, kids. Books are here to stay. So is Harry Potter. Go
Harry, win that Quiddich game for Gryffindor.