Saturday, July 21, 2007

HP and the Deathly Hallows

It's good - yes, there's some clunky writing, but it lives up to the hype. That's all I'm saying about the book.

But I do want to respond to all the critics who demand to know why adults read children's books.

I started reading children's fiction as an adult 16 years ago, when I received a reading list as part of my PGCE course: I'm an English teacher and we were required to read a selection of the books available to 8+ readers, from The Turbulent Term of Tyke Tiler to Wyndham's The Chrysalids. And I've been reading children's books ever since. I read them to discover what children could and should be reading and now that I'm a mother, I read them to see what my own children are exploring.

Since starting out down this road, I've found that on the whole, children's books are more satisfying than much adult literary fiction, and most adult genre fiction, where plots can be all too predictable and characters cardboard cut-outs. There is enormous variety in children's writing, there is great scope for imagination and most importantly, there is an acceptance of the structures of story-writing with no games and post-modernist irony.

There are adult writers who also achieve this with intelligence, wit and flair. And there is certainly plenty of dross out there in the world of children's fiction. But there is greater consistency in children's fiction, and there are real giants currently writing - more than I can name amongst adult writers: Pullman, Fine, McCaughrean, Wynne Jones, Sedgewick, Reeve, Stroud leap to mind immediately.

No, JK Rowling isn't in the immediately memorable list: the HP achievement is a stand-alone. She's not the best stylist, the borrowings can grate as often as they amuse, but she has created a world and a group of characters who resonate with us, who are right for our time, even though she has placed them in an unlikely boarding school world. And more than that, her moral code is simple: love one another. Do not kill. That's it. For these times, where we love to gloat at failure, where so many of us respond to the confusions of modern life with violence and extremism, Rowling's compassion and fundamental decency are refreshing and encouraging alternatives.

One final comment: I think the final film will be the best.

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