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Oh, I know that, and the kids doesn't know about Twitter yet.

As many kids books where they turn out to be a secret superhero/wizard/prince etc, it's basically a power fantasy. And Rowling's power fantasy is to find out you are rich, have important (though dead) parents, go to the English boarding school for the elite in a world where the English domination of the world is unquestioned, where Europe is divided in France and German-Nordic-Slavic whatever, the rest of the world is good for exotic characters and looting, and all you need to learn about at school is ordering the world around. Basically, it's being a boarding school Tory but with magic. That is what I meant by shoddy world building.

So I am not surprised that she lets out her inner Tory, now that she is actually rich.

But as kids books go, they are pretty good in what kids care about. I have also read them the Christian Indoctrination books known as the Narnia series. That didn't work on me, so I figure kids care about the story and perhaps a bit about the characters but not really about the world building.

by fjallstrom on Wed Apr 3rd, 2019 at 03:29:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There are tons of classic fantasy novels that are better than Harry Potter. "Rich boy at boarding school repeatedly gets bailed out of trouble by smart girl" is not a very attractive plot line, and the later books in the series try to emulate the Lord of the Rings. Ugh.
by asdf on Wed Apr 3rd, 2019 at 04:14:25 PM EST
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You don't just go to the ultimate English boarding school for the elite - you also get to put the nasty racist bigoted elites in their place. And the nasty bigoted working classes. And you win at sports too! What could possibly be better?

I've always been amazed how few people see the political subtext, and think HP is about magic, or the occult, or something.

That subtext has all the subtlety of a car alarm going off at 3am right next to your head.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Apr 3rd, 2019 at 05:00:08 PM EST
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Umberto Eco has an essay (included in one of his last collections, Pape Satàn Aleppe) Harry Potter fa male agli adulti?
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Wed Apr 3rd, 2019 at 05:36:54 PM EST
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Phillip Pulman's books are a good substitute for Harry Potter. Some of his book actually use Narnia characters to take the piss

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Apr 3rd, 2019 at 08:24:17 PM EST
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Yes! I read my daughters all of the above (I would add Madeleine L'Engle's books : A wrinkle in time etc, CS Lewis with added nuclear physics and Episcopalean theology)
None of them did any harm, but Pullman rules them all.

(Oh dear, I just learned they did a film version of Wrinkle. Will consult Younger Daughter as to whether we should see it. Could it be worse than Golden Compass?)

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Thu Apr 4th, 2019 at 06:58:19 AM EST
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The Golden Compass

A Wrinkle in Time.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Thu Apr 4th, 2019 at 03:00:30 PM EST
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Compass was a bad film in that they "did the book" to within an inch of its life, and was so superficial that the only character with any emotional depth was the CGI polar bear.

Wrinkle is a whole nother dimension of bad, it would seem (appropriately) - they seem to have lost the plot entirely.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Fri Apr 5th, 2019 at 09:20:26 AM EST
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In the sense that a proper steak and some good beer is a good substitute for McDonalds. Harry Potter is good junk food. Pullman is the proper stuff, but probably needs to be left until they're capable of dealing with it.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Apr 4th, 2019 at 10:03:44 AM EST
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Yes, everything in its proper order.  Rowling was the "introductory drug" for my kids that led them to L'Engle, Pullman, and all sorts of wild things.  I, on the other hand, got things rather backwards.  Norse sagas and Beowulf led me to Tolkien.  By the time I got to Lewis a few years later, not only was I not interested in such fluff because I'd already read the real deal, but I could easily see that it was all Christian propaganda and apologetics of a slap-across-the-face-with-a-wet-herring level of subtlety.  When I finished them (I always finish.  I even finished Atlas Shrugged.  Ewww.), my predominant thought was, "Well, I can't get THAT time back."  I recovered by reading Frankenstein.  But I didn't recover enough to want to revisit Narnia.
by rifek on Sat Apr 13th, 2019 at 07:56:10 PM EST
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I read and re-read Narnia in middle school. Probably several times, enough to remember that I noticed that the books where Aslan was less present were the best ones.

Also I was intrigued by what I perceived as hints at deeper layers. Reading them to my kids I realise that it is simply Lewis borrowing from different mythologies (and not consistently either), with a wink and a nod for the adults. So I wasn't wrong, it was deeper layers, it is just layers of mythology older and outside Christianity.

I also usually always finish books, but I do remember trying to read The Three Musketeers in middle school. The  librarian did warn me that it could be to advanced, but than again it was people fighting with swords on the cover. Don't think I got through the first page, despite several attempts. First book I returned without having read, strange experience. I have doubled back and read it later, but at the time it was very confusing.

by fjallstrom on Sat Apr 13th, 2019 at 11:40:41 PM EST
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You guys literary literacy amazes me. Having the start of a possie of grandchildren, 2 so far, one on the way, oldest aged 4, means I am soon going to have to start on this journey. As a child I was too engrossed in my own dreams to be bothered with others, but I have never been able to write in that genre. So what would really be helpful to me is an analysis of what engages kids minds, and what should be avoided. Imagination can be so free form, and often, for me, so pointless. Often with sinister political undertones. You don't want to be trapped in somebody else's imaginary web. So what books would you recommend?

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Apr 14th, 2019 at 10:43:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
At that age I read them mostly rhyming, rhythmic stories. Mostly for my own sanity, because when they found something they loved they wanted to hear it again and again and again. My favourites include The Book about Moomin, Mymble and Little My and Who Will Comfort Toffle?, both by Tove Jansson.

Later on, I've read them a lot of Hans Christian Andersen and other fairy tales, often in older, slightly archaic translations, because it was good to get them to fall asleep.

Now that they can read a bit themselves, they have a ton of opinions about what they should read, and my philosophy is mainly to encourage reading. There seems to be lots and lots of new children's books coming out, and I think most of what they read is pretty recently written by Swedish authors. Handbok för superhjältar is such a smash hit that I wouldn't be surprised if it's translated soon, though. Young girl finds a Handbook for Superheroes on a dusty shelf in a library or an old bookstore and through the powers of reading and training, evolves super powers of her own. And then she fights crime and bullying. Cool illustrations and easy text, so good for new readers (if and when they are translated into English).

As to what effect books has on impressionable young minds, I'm not sure. They do have effect, but when I go back and re-read scifi I read as a teen, half the story isn't there. Instead of the rich stories and interesting characters I now find flat stories and cardboard characters. But that means that the story as I read it, and the story that impressed me, was largely constructed in my own imagination.

Then again I wouldn't say the content doesn't matter. The first real book I read was "Small is Beautiful". I think I read that one half a dozen times before reading anything else. It is the story about a small dragon that lives with the lizards, but wants to be big. It doesn't listen when the lizards tells him that "Small is beautiful, lagom is best". So it hunts more and more, and gets other animals to hunt for it, for a share of the meat. Eventually it starts growing more heads, I in particular remember the smooth talking head and the fire breathing head. It becomes so large that it dominated the whole forest and the wolf pack decides it needs to be the avant garde of the animals and attack it. Their attack on the dragon fails though, and the dragon grows larger and larger until it poops so much that it's destroying the forest itself. In the end all the animals unite, from the smallest lizard to the largest bear and only then can they overthrow the industrial capitalistic system, I mean the dragon, and a new era can start in the forest. Though in the final picture a dragon egg is resting among the lizard eggs, but perhaps this time the dragon will listen to the lizards?

Given that I have not read it since, it might not have been as obvious eco anarchistic propaganda as I remember it. Though with that title, it probably was. And maybe it was that I was attracted to the content based on already forming values? Though again, maybe it did have that strong an effect on me. In which case, I really should track down a copy and read it to the kids, just to make sure.

by fjallstrom on Sun Apr 14th, 2019 at 07:24:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks! I will look out for it!

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Apr 15th, 2019 at 09:22:05 PM EST
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The first real book I read was "Small is Beautiful".

I thought you were talking about the book by E.F. Schumacher... Made a big impression on me. For adolescents :)

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Wed Apr 17th, 2019 at 11:03:31 AM EST
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If I had tried that when I just had gotten the hang of reading comics, I doubt I would have gotten through it :)

The children's book Liten är fin, which translates literally to Small is beautiful, is written five years later. Given title and content, I think the inspiration is pretty clear.

by fjallstrom on Wed Apr 17th, 2019 at 05:37:39 PM EST
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Picture books, rhymes, good messages : this is old stuff that worked for me, and for my children. Any grandchildren will probably get the same treatment.

Banal, but effective : Dr Seuss.
Brainwashed generations of children into political correctness, right under their unsuspecting parents' noses. ABC and Cat in the Hat, are the entry level ones.

Maurice Sendak : Darker undertones, more moving. The Night Kitchen, Where the Wild things are.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Wed Apr 17th, 2019 at 11:01:24 AM EST
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Basically, it's being a boarding school Tory but with magic

For LOTR, read "loyal English yeoman" for "boarding school Tory".

I used to be afew. I'm still not many.

by john_evans (john(dot)evans(dot)et(at)gmail(dot)com) on Thu Apr 4th, 2019 at 04:23:51 PM EST
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That would explain all the Brexiteer magical thinking...

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Apr 4th, 2019 at 04:30:24 PM EST
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I think I read the first two? I certainly remember the phrenology hat. To sort out all the evil people. And then teach them magic anyway.
by generic on Fri Apr 5th, 2019 at 08:56:32 AM EST
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I just recently read through the whole series in sequence. The first book is short and childish, the last couple are long and complicated and scary. I think what happened was a cohort of readers in elementary school got hooked on the first one, and then matured as the series also matured.

But I would go for TH White any day.

by asdf on Fri Apr 5th, 2019 at 04:28:59 PM EST
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