Everyone has a childhood favourite—whether that’s a book, movie, game, what-have-you—that helped define who they are and how their imagination works.
For me, that was Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. I remember when it came out; I begged my mom shamelessly to buy it for me, even though it left my poor six-year-old reading level choking on a trail of white, puffy train smoke.
Eventually I succeeded at annoying my mom into buying me the book, and I devoured the whole thing in a matter of three days.
I then proceeded to do the same with each subsequent book as soon as they came out (including many an all-nighter, poorly hidden from my parents), but I never ventured back to the origin of my fantasies about owls with handwritten admission letters.
Fast-forward 15 years.
When I was in university, I was “obligated” to re-read Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone as part of my children’s literature class.
Full disclosure: I had signed up for it as a bird course. I had every intention of just cruising through that class, because hey, it was all kids’ books anyway, right?
It turns out it was a really good thing I was in that class, though, because that wasn’t all it was.
A new look at an old favourite
If you think I slowed down and didn’t just devour the book this time around, well, you’d be wrong. That thing was done in a matter of hours.
I admit it’s not always easy to absorb information at lightning speeds, but I did pick up on a few things this time around. For one, I’d forgotten just how witty the book was. I’m pretty sure the vast majority of the humour in that book had gone right over my un-witty little head.
Suddenly, I could understand completely how the book had become so popular with everyone, and not just the little tykes of my generation.
But even though it was technically a kids’ book, it wasn’t light reading.
Cliffhanger again. See what I did there?
A matter of themes
I also noticed that the book handled several rather heavy topics in a way that made it easy for tiny Erin to digest. Even though I hadn’t registered the neglect that happened at the Dursleys’, for example, it had made perfect sense to me, and I think that’s where the power of those books lay.
They held the magic to teach readers about what could be out there, without explicitly being pessimistic or depressing, and by showing them that there’s something better to look forward to.
After all, at the end of the day, it was a happy ending: Harry put up with a lot of *ahem* nonsense, but he still made new friends, beat the bad guy, and took home the trophy.
And isn’t that what it’s all about?
Ps. Still waiting for that letter. Any time would be great.