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whattheshit

Part of you pours out of me in these lines from time to time

Posted on 2004.20.09 at 17:27
How I feel about it all: crankycranky
Soundtrack: Joni Mitchell - A Case of You
Reviews like this one drive me crazy. Not for the subject (Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is on my short list of books to read), but for the whole "this is what you should read after you've outgrown Harry Potter".

The question I have is this: Why does one have to "outgrow" Harry? For that matter, why is any book considered YA if it has a child for a protagonist? Take His Dark Materials as another example. Sure, the heroes are twelve years old, but so what? Does that mean that adults can't read it? HDM is a retelling of Paradise Lost, and how many kids would get that bit? Not that kids can't read it and get something out of it without the hidden analogies, but HDM is not just a childrens' story, and neither is HP. They're good stories, yo, and not just for kids (in the case of HDM, I think a lot of it would fly over kids' heads).

I saw parents bringing their five-year-olds to see Prisoner of Azkaban. That was a scary film! Too scary for kids that age. And yeah, it's a case-by-case call, but I don't think there are many seven-year-olds that would be able to get through Order of the Phoenix, nor should a lot of them be allowed to. OoTP is as scary in some places as parts of Lovecraft or Poe.

I'm not saying kids shouldn't read these books. I just wish that people, including reviewers, would stop telling readers that they're something to outgrow. (the actual line in the text says, "It also gives Potterites who have outgrown Hogwarts a new school to attend. ").

It's insulting to me and, I would think, to the authors of the books. [/rant]

Comments:


The Foo Queen
erebor at 2004-09-20 15:06 (UTC) ()
Big ol' Word!
try to catch the deluge in a paper cup
primroseburrows at 2004-09-20 15:24 (UTC) ()
*hugs* How are you? :D :D Long time no type.
closet_geek at 2004-09-20 19:21 (UTC) ()
I saw parents bringing their five-year-olds to see Prisoner of Azkaban. That was a scary film! Too scary for kids that age.

The weird thing is, when I saw POA I saw a grade nine girl that I 'knew' from school (well, I saw her being ninered--being chased through the parking lot by seniors with water guns) watching it with her grandmother who was, and I swear to god, covering her granddaughter's eyes when the 'scary parts' came on. Aren't people weird?
try to catch the deluge in a paper cup
primroseburrows at 2004-09-20 19:58 (UTC) ()
Eep. Overkill in the entire opposite direction. Bleh.
j
thelalaprincess at 2004-09-21 14:20 (UTC) ()
Here via the daily_snitch.

The Harry Potter series are children's books. However, I'm taking a course in children's literature this year and one of the things that we have learned so far is that, because children's literature are books written by adults for children, they can actually be read on many different levels. In fact, if they can't be read on many deeper levels, than the writer hasn't done a good job because any good writer will bring their own insights, etc. to the work, so there will be a level that children can read the book at, but also many other levels so that adult readers can take something away from the book also.
try to catch the deluge in a paper cup
primroseburrows at 2004-09-21 15:15 (UTC) ()
The Harry Potter series are children's books.

But--what makes a childrens' book a childrens' book? Is it because the heroes are kids? If it's because the author tells you it's a kids' book then HP doesn't apply because JKR has said that she doesn't consider it a kids' series. *shrugs*

In fact, if they can't be read on many deeper levels, than the writer hasn't done a good job because any good writer will bring their own insights, etc. to the work, so there will be a level that children can read the book at, but also many other levels so that adult readers can take something away from the book also.

I agree. And I think that HP is that kind of story, and that's why I get so bothered about someone saying it's something we'll "outgrow".
Magpie
sistermagpie at 2004-09-21 14:29 (UTC) ()
Actually, books with child protagonists aren't always considered children's books. A good way to think of it is whether one is writing a story they think children will enjoy or writing about children/childhood.

HP is a story written for children to enjoy. It's definitely a children's book in terms of publishing. Juvenile lit is separate from adult, and Arthur Levine has spent his career in juvenile. Nothing about HP, imo, attempts to talk look at childhood from an adult perspective--which isn't a bad thing. A child's view of childhood or an adolescent's view of adolescence (as opposed to a stylized child/adolescent's view of childhood/adolecense for adults) can be just as rich and complex.

The misconception, I think, is the far older one, which is that a good children's book is something like a dumbed down adult book. This is just not true. There are incredibly sophisticated children's books that deal upfront with very painful subjects, death being the big one.

Actually, I just realized this question also reminds me of a teacher I had in grad school (not that you remind me of her, just that the question made me think about this). It was a class in adaptation and I was doing a children's book and she kept putting kids' books down, making me angrier and angrier. Even worse, whenever she came upon a children's book she liked or that made a successful movie she would claim it was "really written for adults." Finally I think I did let her have it. I just felt like, "Stop trying to take everything you like away from children just because you like it!" Because all the best children's books also can appeal to adults. We were all children once, and children are people too. We have more freedom as older readers, that we can understand juvenile and adult. Kids don't always have that ability yet.
try to catch the deluge in a paper cup
primroseburrows at 2004-09-21 15:20 (UTC) ()
A child's view of childhood or an adolescent's view of adolescence (as opposed to a stylized child/adolescent's view of childhood/adolecense for adults) can be just as rich and complex.

I see your point, definitely. And what you're saying about childrens' books being treated as second-class citizens is certainly true. And I think the reviewer of Jonathan Strange is doing just that by putting down Harry's story.

I still don't understand what makes a kids' book a kids' book, though--is it because it's from a child's POV? I'm not sure, because I think there are most likely books that are completely from the point of view of a child/adolescent that's not a kids' book at all. Catcher in the Rye, for example. And JKR has specifically said that HP isn't a kids' book (if anyone has the exact quote I'd love to see it).
Rose
pitchblackrose at 2004-09-21 14:33 (UTC) ()
Well, I'm a librarian and finishing my degree in comparative literature - and a children's book freak :)

What annoys me to no end is that as soon as a children's book is considered worth something, it isn't classified as a children's book any more.

I read children's books and I'm not ashamed of it. And I think it's more important to market good books for children rather than adults, because adults can dig up good children's books for themselves but the odds of the kids looking in the grown-up section for suitable reading material are less.

(But then again, I do see your point about obnoxious people talking about out-growing things. *Grr*)

Here via daily_snitch
try to catch the deluge in a paper cup
primroseburrows at 2004-09-21 15:25 (UTC) ()
What annoys me to no end is that as soon as a children's book is considered worth something, it isn't classified as a children's book any more.

I'm not sure that's always true. The Secret Garden, Half-Magic, Pippi Longstocking, and The Wizard of Oz are books that I consider kids' books (although one could give the Oz books the same argument I give HP, I suppose).
Pamela
fatascribunda at 2004-09-21 15:08 (UTC) ()

via daily snitch

my library agrees with you (us readers in general, i guess). they put all the HP books (and His Dark Materials, which i read on vacation and ADORED) in the ADULT science fiction section. i thought that seemed more appropriate than the children's section. they were next to Terry Prachett, too.
try to catch the deluge in a paper cup
primroseburrows at 2004-09-21 15:30 (UTC) ()

Re: via daily snitch

Being next to Terry Pratchett is always a good thing. *g*

But yeah, HDM even more than HP has so many deep elements lurking, and not even just below the surface. HDM is an onion--you can peel it and peel it and keep finding more and more wonderful flavours. I can't see an average kid under thirteen understanding a whole lot of it. I guess that's why it's classified as YA, and not "Childrens'". Maybe someone should ask Philip Pullman what kind of book he thinks it is.
strangemuses
strangemuses at 2004-09-21 17:42 (UTC) ()
Here via the Daily Snitch.

The Harry Potter books are children's books. The underlying story here is about a child growing up, learning how to assess the world he lives in, learning what 'good'/'evil' mean, and ultimately learning to trust in his own judgment. The pacing of the story is geared towards younger readers, the emotional tone of the story is geared to a level appropriate for younger readers, and the underlying messages are ultimately appropriate for children and young teens. This story, if written for adults, would have a far more complex story structure and tone.

JKR is increasing the complexity and maturity of each book. She had intended her series to reflect the sort of maturing process that an adolescent undergoes. Harry starts out the series as a relatively innocent child with a naive outlook and will end it as a young adult.

JKR did not intend OotP to be read by 10 year olds. Compare it to SS and you can see that she is increasing the emotional complexity that Harry deals with as he ages; however, her intent is still to be telling an age-appropriate tale. Her intended audience is young teens to young adults. The books most certainly can be read by adults because JKR is a clever writer and has designed a fairly complex world that is populated by enough adult characters to keep adult readers interested.
try to catch the deluge in a paper cup
primroseburrows at 2004-09-22 09:38 (UTC) ()
JKR is increasing the complexity and maturity of each book. She had intended her series to reflect the sort of maturing process that an adolescent undergoes. Harry starts out the series as a relatively innocent child with a naive outlook and will end it as a young adult.

So I guess that the HP series is more mercurial, quite a bit by virtue of the fact that it is just that, a series, and one book doesn't be just like the next in content. I like how she's having the books grow with Harry, actually, and Harry is one of my favourite protagonists, no matter what his age. Whether he wants to hear it or not, he's definitely my hero. *g*
Renée
rogueslayer452 at 2004-09-21 17:48 (UTC) ()
Agreed. Just...agreed. (Directed here from daily_snitch)

I don't see the Harry Potter series as just for children, and it boggles my mind whenever someone says that people will "grow out of it" and go to "real" literature -- and believe me, I have actually met people who think exactly like this.

I do believe, though, that it was Scholastic that marketed the books towards children from the beginning because the first book was when Harry was an 11-year-old boy, and it would appeal to children because it's about a someone their own age, going into a magical world with wizards, flying brooms, magical creatures, and many adventures. Something that kids like, which is an imaginary world unlike the reality around them, and it's easy to identify with our young Harry Potter and his friends.

I just wish that people, including reviewers, would stop telling readers that they're something to outgrow.

This reminds me about that time that Byatt woman argues that adults who read Harry Potter are trying to find and escape to childhood and are adults that want something to cling onto, or something along those lines. See, this is something I cannot believe that there are people in this world that actually think like that -- dense and uninformed about something, which makes them look like a complete idiot. Harry Potter might have not tickled her fancy like it has done for others, but generalizing other people's liking for the books is definitely going out of line.

People will tell me that I need to read more classic books. Who's to say that Harry Potter might not be a classic in the future? I'd rather read it now so I can tell my kids or my grandkids that I read the ancient Harry Potter series when they just came out.

I, too, saw parents bring little younguns to see Prisoner of Azkaban in the theaters -- even small infants were there! Granted, I am not one to judge any parenting skills because everyone has their own way of dealing with their children and they know their kids better than anyone (or one would assume), but that film wasn't a general kid-friendly type of film. If it was it would've been rated G, but it wasn't; it was a strong PG that was closing on the PG-13 rating, at least from my perspective from the contents of the film.

About the books though, I really get irritated when someone says that they dislike Harry Potter because it's for little kids (and it usually follows with the line that it's "stupid" to read them, but that's another story with some of the people that really don't like reading for fun -- blasphemers!). This also begs to question if they've even given the books a chance. Ten bucks says most of the haven't.

It's definitely insulting that someone would dismiss the series as just for children and when someone reaches a certain age that they would grow out of it. I don't want someone telling me what to read because they believe once you read a certain age you should read such-and-such genre or books.

I believe there is no age limit to books. Hell, I still read the Animorphs series and Goosebumps from time to time because I enjoyed them thoroughly as a kid, and I still do. Does this mean I cannot read other literature books? Of course not. I read all genres, regardless of what age group it's targeted towards. If it's something I find interesting to my own taste, I'll read it. I don't need a dictator hovering over me and slapping me across the wrist saying, "No! You cannot read that! It's too childish for someone your age."

As an avid reader of many books, I believe there is no such thing as an age limit to read a book. Granted for children, of course, there are because certain books they should not be reading, but for others it's just insulting that there are people who will judge a book not only by it's cover, but by what mature level it's written in.

try to catch the deluge in a paper cup
primroseburrows at 2004-09-22 10:12 (UTC) ()
This reminds me about that time that Byatt woman argues that adults who read Harry Potter are trying to find and escape to childhood and are adults that want something to cling onto, or something along those lines.

She's obviously never read OotP. It's dark in there! If my childhood was anything like Harry's is at the time of OotP, I'd want to escape into Half-Magic or something. *shiver*

People will tell me that I need to read more classic books. Who's to say that Harry Potter might not be a classic in the future? I'd rather read it now so I can tell my kids or my grandkids that I read the ancient Harry Potter series when they just came out.

That's another entire rant for me. I think it's elitist and wrong to say that "classics" are better than modern works. Classics were once modern works,after all. Charles Dickens got lumped into the same category in his day that Stephen King does today--someone who writes "popular books" and doesn't give a hoot about literature. Well, look at where Dickens is categorised today. I hope that someday King will be right up there next to him, as well as JKR. I think HP is a classic in the making.

I believe there is no such thing as an age limit to read a book. Granted for children, of course, there are because certain books they should not be reading.

I think that with children, it's a case-by-case basis. There are ten-year-olds who could handle OotP, and there are fifteen-year-olds who couldn't. I suppose it depends on maturity and upbringing, that old nature/nurture saw. My fifteen-year-old (mr_t00byDark Tower</i> series, and is completely addicted. But he's been reading dark and creepy for a while now (mostly because his mom's a fan of dark and creepy and has the books lying about. *g*)and it might be too dark and creepy for others his age.
Ishtar
ishtar79 at 2004-09-21 18:01 (UTC) ()
I just wish that people, including reviewers, would stop telling readers that they're something to outgrow.

That bothers me a lot too. I get a lot of flack from people in RL for liking the books (and by 'people', I mean my 'mother'), and don't appreciate the tone often used in the media when referring to HP.

Sort of on topic: I read a PoA review yesterday that had me grinding my teeth. Regardless of any issues there might be with the film (and I have many), the reviewer was as good as saying that he was disturbed by the amount of adults anticipating the film (and by extension the books), and went as far as making disparaging remarks on the intelligence/maturity of said group.

Now, I don't know whether the HP books fall firmly under the realm of Children's/Young Adults' literature. They definetely 'mature' in tandem with Harry, but at the end of the day, there are still some 'adult' themes I don't see featured in them anytime soon (for once, I'm not talking gay sex).

But...so what if they are. There's nothing embarassing or wrong about an adult enjoying well-written children's literature. For one thing, it is very much like adult literature, with bad/good writers and differant levels of engaging. For another...well, a lot of it is so entertaining! I'd love a chance to re-read some of my old childhood favorites. Perhaps this reviewer thinks intelligent readers should only read Kafka and above, but I personnaly like to spice up my reading habits with all genres.

And this is getting long. Possibly incoherent, but that's what I get for posting at 4AM.
try to catch the deluge in a paper cup
primroseburrows at 2004-09-22 10:15 (UTC) ()
They definetely 'mature' in tandem with Harry, but at the end of the day, there are still some 'adult' themes I don't see featured in them anytime soon (for once, I'm not talking gay sex).

Remus and Sirius are an old married couple. They probably only have sex once a week anyway. *gg*
the color is rainbow
fivil at 2004-09-22 08:56 (UTC) ()
Via daily_snitch!

I think what makes them children's books is the thing that Rowling basically decided she wanted to write essentially for children. I think it's of course best seen in the first books. Then she saw the story attracted more adult readers, which is why she was probably more comfortable adding darker elements to the stories.

(In here I should probably add that many children's stories, fairytales and such, have quite dark elements to them, so it's not a new thing.)

But they remain children's books, because the language of them (no cursing etc. but also the style of writing) and the way that children can understand them just as older readers can. We understand the books on a different level, of course, we re-read them for clues and foreshadowing, but children just understand what characters they like and the basic structures of the plot and the story (I'm not a child, so I can't say exactly how children view these books).

Someone pointed out once that Rowling writes very stereotypical characters, even though she gives them depth of some sort. This is also one characteristic of children's literature, I think.
try to catch the deluge in a paper cup
primroseburrows at 2004-09-22 12:39 (UTC) ()
I think what makes them children's books is the thing that Rowling basically decided she wanted to write essentially for children. I think it's of course best seen in the first books. Then she saw the story attracted more adult readers, which is why she was probably more comfortable adding darker elements to the stories.

I believe (and again I don't have the quote--if any one else does I'd love to see it) that JKR has said that it was always the plan to mature the books as Harry matures. I find it hard to believe that someone who has planned this series as thoroughly as she has would change the age-level of the story just because more adults were reading her story. Sure, authors write to the market to some extent, but she's known where this story is going the entire time she's been writing it.

But they remain children's books, because the language of them (no cursing etc. but also the style of writing) and the way that children can understand them just as older readers can.

I think there are exceptions to this rule. For instance, Neil Gaiman's Stardust. It's marketed as a "fairytale for grownups"; it has one swear and one nonexplicit (I think) sex scene (or so the reviews say--I haven't read the book beyond the first page or so, mostly because I really want the more expensive illustrated hardcover). The language, though, is fairy-tale prose, and the story has magical talking animals and trees and gnomes and the stuff of fairy-tales. Childrens' book or not? I'm beginning to more and more think that the definition is an arbitrary one on the part of the marketer.

Someone pointed out once that Rowling writes very stereotypical characters, even though she gives them depth of some sort.

I've always considered the characters archetypal rather than stereotypical. And yes, she gives most of them depth, but not all. *glares in direction of Canon!Draco*. I keep wondering when the hero is going to lose his mentor, as tends to happen in the hero's journey. But that brings up whether Harry's mentor is Dumbledore or Sirius, and that's another discussion entirely (*whispers* It's Dumbledore! *g*).



Annika
anka1082 at 2004-09-22 13:15 (UTC) ()
Here from the Daily Snitch


In my intro to children's lit class a couple years ago, my prof gave the best definition of children's lit I've ever heard. And that was "Children's lit is any book that can be read and enjoyed by children."

Therefore, according to that definition, Harry Potter fits in. Or the Odyssey. Or whatever else that kids can read and enjoy (or have read to them).

And just because kids can enjoy them, doesn't mean that adults cannot. Practically everything I read now is kid lit, and I'm perfectly happy with that.
try to catch the deluge in a paper cup
primroseburrows at 2004-09-22 15:06 (UTC) ()
Practically everything I read now is kid lit, and I'm perfectly happy with that.

*g* I read a lot of what's classified as kid lit, and for the most part I love it. I also read stuff like Stephen King-Peter Straub's The Talisman (which is one of those "grey area stories"-- written from a kids' POV, but not necessarily FOR kids.) and H.P. Lovecrafts' The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Tales which is decidedly not for kids. I have trouble reading Lovecraft and not creeping completely out, and I'm erm. Over eighteen. *shudder* It's great, though.
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