Summer Reading: Harry Potter
By Elizabeth and Michael Foss
In light of the recent Harry Potter craze, my 11-year-old and I decided to
do a little critical reading together. We read the first book in the series
I asked Michael to write a review. Here, he shares his opinions and a
My experience with Harry Potter was very decisive to say the least. It took
me just one book to decide not to read the rest of the series.
Eleven-year-old Harry Potter lives with the Dursleys, his aunt and uncle,
and their spoiled son, Dudley. The Dursleys despise Harry for coming into
lives as an infant in a basket on their front porch. Mrs. Dursley’s sister,
Harry’s mother, died alongside her husband. They were both wizards. The evil
Lord Voldermort came to the Potter household when Harry was one to try to
bring the Potters to the dark side. When the Potters refused, he killed the
couple but Harry was too powerful for the lord and only was scarred.
The boy grows up thinking his parents died in a car accident. On Harry’s
birthday, a mysterious letter comes in the mail from a school that teaches
boys and girls to become witches and wizards. On the day it’s time to leave
for the school, Hogwarts, the real adventure begins. Harry learns to make
potions, how to transfigure rats into hairpins and other useful things.
The book consistently stumbles on the topic of right and wrong. For example:
Harry and his classmates are learning how to fly on broomsticks when the
teacher is called away for a while. She tells the students to stay put and
not to fly! Well, the school bully, Draco Malfoy, decides to pick on one of
the students by picking up the boy’s broomstick and flying off. Harry Potter
flies after Malfoy and just as Harry zooms up, the culprit goes down. The
teacher catches Harry up in the air and she pretends to scold him in front
of the class but then commends him for his flying ability behind closed doors.
These kinds of mixed-message incidents happen throughout the book.
The book takes a very sinister, troublesome spin when Harry comes face to
face with Voldermort. When the dark lord failed to kill Harry, he lost all
his power. So he looks over the world trying to find someone to possess.
With the body of a man in his control, Voldermort attacks Harry. The boy is so
strong Voldermort’s hands blister and burn when he touches Potter. The power
is so great the body perishes but the dark lord filters into the air to find
The book’s satanic references were very disturbing as can be imagined. I
don’t think it’s appropriate for little kids. The author also portrays the
muggles (non-magic folk) to be idiotic bumblers that have no clue about
anything. The children in this book as well as the adults are very
disrespectful. There is a lot of lying and cheating by both adults and
children that goes unpunished. Many controversial things in the text were not
needed, and they did not add any glory to this book. It was very
A friend of my mom’s told me that in the second book, Harry and his friends
bury a screaming mandrake root. The more the root screams, the more dirt
they dump on it. A mandrake root looks like a baby. In case the reader didn’t
that, there is a picture of it at the beginning of the chapter. I wonder why
the author picked a root that looks like a baby to bury. [Mom’s note: our
dictionary says that the root of a mandrake has been traditionally used to
promote conception. Why did she choose a mandrake?] The author says that in
the fourth book Harry’s hormones are supposed to kick in. I don’t even want
to know what that’s supposed to mean.
[as those of us who've read it know, it doesn't mean an awful lot - though I
was worried too. - ms]
Instead of Harry Potter, I recommend the Redwall series of books by English
author, Brian Jacques. The books are about abbey mice who live around the
medieval time. The mice live in a great sandstone abbey. The hero of the
books is Martin the warrior (a mouse featured in all the books). Martin
defends Redwall Abbey from villainous ferrets, weasels, stoats, foxes, and
rats. The warrior mouse appears alive in four books, and comes to new
champions of Redwall as a guide in dreams (much like Obi-Wan Kenobi in the
Star Wars films).
The book has a very distinctive feeling of good and evil. The good abbey
mice and their colleagues, portrayed by otters, moles, hares, hedgehogs,
and squirrels, are exposed to many evils but always persevere through it
all, never once dropping to evil's level. The books usually have very fierce
battles that are described very graphically. The battles are very gory, and
always the mice try to stop bloodshed from happening but once they are
threatened to the point where combat is the only option, they fight. Always,
mind you, the mice learn from the experience of war. The mice lose many
friends and family during the wars but at the end of the book they always
start to rebuild.
The books have very rich literary style and are very entertaining for kids
and adults. The language really improves your grammar immensely.