Subscribe to The Horn Book

>Harry’s House (and Harry’s take-home pay)

>I know I’ve exhausted whatever critical credibility I might have had re Harry Potter, but I need to talk about yesterday’s headlines announcing that the name of the forthcoming and final volume to the series could be found at the author’s website. Less sporting journalists simply announced the name.

But why the hoopla? Is it an all-join-in-thing? Is it because the publishers made a game out of the news? I mean, I could get all excited if I heard that Hilary McKay was writing another Exiles book (and I am all excited that there’s going to be another Die Hard) but I wouldn’t care what they were going to call it. Maybe I’m missing a gene.

I do like the name, though, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Fundamentalists, come on down.

Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.



  1. >I know I always go off track, but while we’re here, Roger, I have to ask — how do you feel about another Rocky? And I’m with you on McKay’s Exiles. Brilliant series.

  2. Roger Sutton says:

    >What’s the game where you brag about something everyone but you has read or seen? I’ve never seen a Rocky movie.

  3. >Don’t know that game, but I am impressed — it took a lot of work over many years to avoid Rocky altogether. Is there anyone out there who hasn’t yet read a Harry Potter book?

  4. >jeanneb said: “Is there anyone out there who hasn’t yet read a Harry Potter book?”

    Yes, the Fundamentalists who shout the loudest against it.

    I was flagergasted when one of them proclaimed, “It’s horrible. Evil wins.” Totaly confused, I stuttered something about the fact that actually GOOD wins — Harry is on the side of Good, fighting Evil. It took some time for them to get across to me that they think Harry is Evil. Because Magic is itself, Evil. (Don’t ever counter that Jesus works ‘magic’ in the Bible with his miracles. Bad move.)

  5. Andy Laties says:

    >In other words Fundamentalists are Muggles.

  6. rindawriter says:

    >Okay, okay…I’ll be brave and step up to confess…I’ve read a few first pages only of a couple or so of Harry Potter books…and, yes, yes, yes, I WILL speak truth here–I was BORED! Turned off! I could NOT see myself plowing through endless pages of that sodden verbiage…I couldn’t.

    And…maybe I’m wrong, but something about Rowlings initial presentation of the Muddles or Moodles or Mufirtzers or whatever they are (that group of nonimaginative, boring people who are the status quo..) BOTHERED me…and that has something to do with why I also got bothered by the “Roseanne” comedy show a while back…and I have not figured it out yet, the connection or why, but it doesn’t bother me enough yet to go and, again, put my precious reading time into those Potter books…and considering that around age 9 or 10 or somewhere I WAS willing to plow through and skip read to my own enjoyment “War and Peace” in very fine print…and am considering doing it again with less skipping in the near future…

  7. >Rindawriter, I think I know what you mean. Is it a lack of generosity of spirit? Making fun of too-easy-of-targets? (I seem to be using too many “of”s, but I have that lung thing that’s going around, and I’m only partly here.) If this is what you’re talking about, Borat is another example for me (though I must admit I refuse to see it).

  8. rindawriter says:

    >Well, I need to carefully think this through,first, before I endanger myself by speaking too soon, but the Muggles seemed to me, right away, in my first reading attempts of her books, like sort of an almost sub-human group as portrayed by her; they’re human but not human enough and, while they do bad and stupid things, they get poked fun at all the time, looked down on all the time by her as a narrator–her words reek with that attitude. Its the rigid classification of the Muggles as a group of humans who are somehow inferior that is probably bothering me the most. I don’t like viewing the world or people like that.

    Roseanne did the same thing to mentally/physically disabled people in her show. She turned them into a rigid little boxed group of people whose gestures and behaviors were constantly imitated and made fun of by her and others, and it really got to me, bothered me. This “group” of people on the show, deteriorated almost into a sub-human group by being made fun of all the time. I felt so, anyway, and it upset me a lot. I had to quit watching, knowing as I know, the facts: Many paraplegics or disabled folks can be very talented and intelligent. And loving. And they are all, God bless them every one, INDIVIDUALS!

    Are humans less human becuase they behave oddly, act stupidly, are cruel or mean to others, are petty, are imperfect, behave differently from ourselves, do things differently from ourselves, and if so, do we have a right to demean, mock them, categorize them in a “sub-human” or “lower” category than ourselves? That’s the question. I guess.

    I suppose there is a deep belief thing in all of this for me working itself out somehow, but philosophically, logically, intellectually, one has to come to terms with one’s own biases and deep convictions: Are all humans human at some level for me, for you? And whre is that level for each of us that we would call “human,” or do we prefer to instead easily, neatly classify other human beings into rigid little boxes of smart or not smart, stupid/not stupid, humans to make fun of/humans not to make fun of, etc….

    Which, to me then far too easily leads us into then being able to classify humans according to other sterotypes as well, ie., race, culture, physical ability, etc., etc.

    Rowlings sterotypes stupid, silly, petty, selfish, less talented, less intelligent people into a class of people, a rigid little box and even sort of mocks them as sort of sub-humans. That is EXACTLY what the Nazis did when they first started to even think about filtering out “undesirables” in their society.

    Other novelists, like Dickons, I feel, in the most enduring, most worthy books for children or adults would see these same stupid, petty, selfish, less intellient, less talented people as INDIVIDUALS! In sharp contrast to Rowlings’s creation of a whole “Muggles” class of people.

    E. B. White’s Templeton is a superb example. He is never a character that we really like or enjoy or would want to emulate; in fact, he’s a really nasty and stinky rat but he is unique–and our reading about him makes us see that. Dickon’s Mrs. Harris is just such another as is Austen’s Mr. Collins. If you read Katherine Paterson’s new book, “Bread and Roses, Too,” you will find just such another character in the person of the male main character’s drunken father. Horrible as the old man is, Paterson will force you to see him as an individual–and lead you, the reader, into pity for him.

    Which is the spark for compassion.

    Thanks! for your comments. Very insightful to help me along with this

  9. Andy Laties says:

    >Brian Jacques came to my store a couple of times in the late 80s and early 90s, and on at least two occasions he used practically the same line, with the kids: “I like to make my Goodies really good, and my Baddies really bad.”

    I found it interesting that Brian would be so upfront and practically theoretical about this. I mean, at the end of each of his Redwall books, when the chief Baddie gets his comuppance, you simply can NOT feel sorry about it. This character was simply rotten to the absolute core. Generally this main Badguy is given several opportunities to be good, and he is horrible and nasty each time.

    Now — I think you’re right that given the fact that the Muggles are NOT “baddies” in Jacques’s sense of the word, Rowling is fairly consistently denigratory.

    So — this then makes me retreat to comparing her to Roald Dahl. Dahl has been loathed by many a parent and teacher for his black-and-white portrayals. In Dahl, there are lots of characters whose rather normal, petty venality reaps a completely out-sized whirlwind. There was a point at which Roald Dahl was the bestselling author in the English language — I think that I read in maybe 1992 that his sales had hit 80 million copies worldwide altogether.

    So — I’d say that at least Muggles are descendents of Roald Dahl’s caricatures of stupid grown-ups (Aunt Spiker and Aunt Sponge; Augustus Gloop) and not of Brian Jacques caricatures of evil dictators and thugs (Cluny the Rat, et al).

    Oh dear, I don’t have a lovely conclusion for you. Except that I agree that I prefer Dickens, and I do think that Rowling, Dahl and Jacques would ALL prefer to be Dickens. But, they’re not.

  10. >I agree with the broad-brush theory of many of Rowling’s characterizations. Too many groups–muggles, magicals, house-elves, etc. She attempts, through Dumbledore, to show tolerance and acceptance of all. However, what mostly comes across is how one cannot move from one group to another. The Slytherins, for example, are almost all undesirable characters.

    Roger–I thought you’d be, like me, annoyed by the adverb/adjective in the latest title. As if those constant adverb tags in her “prose”–ugh–aren’t enough!

  11. >One of the things we are and should always be on guard against is judging a book or books without having read them in entirety. We really have to hold ourselves to the same standard as we do that “subgroup” of people we literature lovers tend to denigrate: the would-be book censors who decry books they have not read. At least one of the comments above indicates that the person has not read a whole Harry Potter book.

  12. Andy Laties says:

    >I know I’ve read two H.P. books right through, and enjoyed them. I do think it’s worth remembering that these books are intended for readers as young as eight years old. Broad-brush characterizations can be understood as an extension of fairy-tale archetypes, for instance. Using Dickens as a standard for character development may be a BIT inappropriate.

  13. rindawriter says:

    >I feel that if I don’t have brains enough, personal taste enough, am not an independant, unique individual enough to recognize a book I don’t want to read further…PROBABLY! I ought not to be reading in the first place!

    It’s passing a judgment to say that I need to read a whole book before passing my critical judgement on it. It’s too much like authors whining that an editor HAS to read therough EVERY slush pile submission before she/he can officially decide whether or not it’s “right for us.”

    AND…after all and after all…reading IS MY private space…where I, with a double-sized, bolded I make ALL the rules…for me, myself, and I…

    Now, if I were PAID to do a critical review of a book…well then, I would, at least getting SOMETHING back for my time spent…otherwise….LIFE IS TOO SHORT!

    That’s why I rely on guides like the Hornbook Magazine! I don’t want to fish through all the books in the world and get more arthritis in my back trying to lug them all home from libraries and bookstores….I just want the chance to get into the BEST ONES!

    If I can’t do that as a reader, buyer, lover of books…then why do we have reviews? And reviewers in the first place. Roger would not have a job then!

    Happy New Year!!!!!

    I resolve to read more and to be even more picky in what I read in 2007

    It’s like looking at bad art…you don’t need to go through an artist’s whole collection to

  14. rindawriter says:

    >know it’s bad art!

    And I did give the example of the rat in Charlotte’s web as a character we all love to feel icky about…

  15. >I never said you have to read every book you start. I don’t believe in that. I do believe that it is not possible to analyze Rowling’s treatment of muggles, for example, without having read the books.

  16. rindawriter says:

    >Well, you know, each to his/her own. Belief systems are difficult to argue with…don’t worry,though; I’m sure my health won’t suffer from not having digested the Harry Potter books.

  17. Blogmaster says:

    >I personally like the title of your post. Harry's House and Harry's take home pay. Is this a reference toward Joni Mitchel's Harry's House song? If so am I the only one to 'get it'?

    and Joni's work makes Harry potter look like true child's play. ;0 Maybe that is what you were trying to say. Heck, it is true, after all.

Comment Policy:
  1. Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  2. Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  3. Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through (though some comments with links to multiple URLs are held for spam-check moderation by the system). If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.

We accept clean XHTML in comments, but don't overdo it and please limit the number of links submitted in your comment. For more info, see the full Terms of Use.

Speak Your Mind