Saturday, September 26, 2009

Banned Book Week: The Harry Potter Series

Let us begin this week of Banned Book reviews with the obvious...The Harry Potter Series.

PLOT SUMMARY (just in case you do in fact, live under a rock.  Which begs the question of how you gained access to the internet): After he turns eleven, Harry Potter learns that he is a wizard and heads off to wizarding school where he makes both friends and enemies.  While there, he learns that the evil wizard responsible for his parents' death isn't as dead as the wizarding community thought.  Let the epic battle between good and evil begin!!!!!!!

While not the number one most challenged book of the 1990s or 2000s (yet), Harry Potter has had it's share of controversy and has been subject to book burnings.  In fact, several burnings.

I'm guessing at least some of the book burners must have skipped the official challenging process established by the ALA, because the series was only number 48 on the most banned list of the 1990s.  (Of course, most of the books came out in the 2000s, but Harry Potter was already a growing cultural phenomenon in the late 90s)

And since Harry Potter is so popular, I thought I'd ask you, my few and faithful readers, have you had any experiences of people expressing hate for Harry Potter?

Since I teach children's literature to undergrads, my students expect me to discuss the books (although I've never assigned any of them, assuming my students either have already read them or really don't want to.  Plus, if I were to teach one of the books in the series, it'd be Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, because of the discussion we could have about the government's role in education.  But that book doesn't come first, is lOOOOOOOooooOOOOng and I'm not that mean).  So, how about you?  And HP dramas?  Any good lesson for incorporating HP?

Reasons Censored:


Of course a better argument against the series would be age appropriateness.  As Harry matures so do the conflicts and problems he faces.  Some of the imagery in the later books could be downright disturbing.  Inferi, I'm talking about yoooouuuuuuuu!  Lots of nightmare potential for students who aren't ready for those creatures (and that's not something limited by age).  So, a better argument would be not to share the first books in a classroom of middle grade readers for fear that they may read on and discover plots they're not ready for.  Of course, chances are good, students would be reading on their own, so at that point, any censorship decisions should fall to the parents.

Potential Counter-Arguments:

While the books do feature magic, they still show moral struggles over right and wrong, with the goal of good triumphing over evil.

In general the books show education in a positive light and make readers excited both to read and learn.  The series has become a cultural phenomenon with its own movies, music and games, making it hard to ignore.

Plus the characters, celebrate christmas as a happy occasion for gift giving and family and friends.

This series gets kids reading.  A dream come true right there.  Let them read!!!!!!

In response to my own challenge on the basis of age appropriateness, if students are reading the book independently and they discover a tension, image, plot point they aren't ready for, the kids may self-censor and stop reading or skip ahead all on their own.

Uses in the Classroom:

These books are fun and imaginative, catching the attention of many students who wouldn't otherwise pick up a book so thick or any book at all.  That alone is reason enough to make this series available to readers.

If a teacher were to use the books or quotes from the books in a classroom teachers could use the books to discuss mythological figures, dealing with loss, character foils, descriptions, and on and on.

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