Friday, August 1, 2008

Harry Potter lives on....

This is probably already well-known, but I found out last night that JK Rowling is going to be coming out with a new HP book, The Tales of Beedle the Bard.

I'm a Harry Potter fan. Not an insanely addicted one, but I did enjoy each book as well as the movies. I've always liked stuff like that, magic, childhood rebellion, fantasy, with a little dark human nature thrown in to keep things interesting. When I was little, my favorite books were The Borrowers, From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, The Phanthom Tollbooth, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Charlotte's Web (yeah I cried), A Wrinkle in Time, and all of the Oz Books. I also read Nancy Drew, Cherry Ames, and the Bobbsey Twins. I loved stories about people who were down or poor and still made wonderful lives for themselves through their creativity, like The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, or Little Women, Little House on the Prairie and Heidi.

My nieces and nephews are going to have an entirely different reading experience growing up, as I suppose every new generation does. The Yeshivish ones are being raised on the Savta Simcha and the Adventures of the Cheery Bim Band series. The more modern ones are heavily into Disney, Harry Potter, anime, and they watch too much reality television.

Tziporah Heller once talked about fairy tales' place in Orthodox Judaism. She said that many American traditional fairy tales transmit horrible values, which is true. In so many fairy tales, ugly people are bad and beautiful people are good. Witches and ogres are alway hideous, and princesses and fairy godmothers are always beautiful. This basically teaches kids that what is on the outside is also on the inside, which is a terrible, wrong thing to transmit (and one of the reasons I loved Shrek so much). Also, so many heroes and heroines of fairy tales are princesses, princes, kings and queens, which teaches kids that the good people in this world are the people who are in charge and who rule. And of course, the women in fairy tales are all just waiting around for a man to come and save them, which is just not what we should be teaching our little girls.

And yet, a part of me feels like Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel and Hansel & Gretel are all part of my heritage of being a kid in America. I cannot imagine not reading them to my kids someday. For some reason, I feel very protective and sentimental about the books and stories I loved as a child and want very much to transmit them to kids who are in my life. Inexplicably, they occupy a warm and fuzzy place in my heart, and I get insulted when they are not appreciated or rejected.

I took The Borrowers out of the library for my visiting 9 year old niece, who is into miniatures and dollhouses. She had no interest in reading it. She said a book about tiny people who live inside the wall was stupid. She's reading Bratfest at Tiffany's right now. Yeah, that's a real book.


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