Book Reviews by Izzy Lyman
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
by J.K. Rowling
Once upon a time a British orphan named Harry Potter starred in a series of wildly successful books.
Harry Potter, for those of you mesmerized by Campaign 2000, is the wizard-in-training at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Harry is a slight lad who wears black-framed eyeglasses and has a lightening-bolt-shaped scar on his forehead. When he’s not busy battling the evil Lord Voldemort or flying his broom in Quidditch games, he’s taking classes with his pals Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger.
Not since Bilbo Baggins has such a humble make-believe chap elicited the adulation usually reserved for celebrities.
Customers placed over 300,000 pre-paid orders at Amazon.com for the latest installment in the series - Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - which was released on the 8th of July. Scholastic, the American publisher, printed a record 3.8 million hardcover copies of the 734 page book, and Publishers Weekly reports that it has become the “the fastest-selling book in print history.” The Edmond Public Library has access to 99 copies of Goblet, and they are all checked out. (Sorry, patrons, there’s no spell to make the library’s substantial waiting list shrink.)
Harry’s fame has also caused strife. Conservative Christian parents and sorcerers don’t mingle, so there’s been a movement to have the Potter series removed from the reading lists of elementary schools. In fact, Mardel Christian-Office-Educational Supply does not sell the books. Laurel Neal, pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Edmond, who is a fan of fantasy fiction, believes that these parental concerns about magic and witches are not insignificant. But Neal also defends Harry. “He is learning the proper use of magic, and in the process, he is becoming a wise, responsible, regulated person,” she says.
This literary juggernaut has produced a remarkable amount of buzz, fuss, and sales, but is Goblet a good read? Mostly I’d give it a thumbs up.
Plot in brief: After summer break, Harry returns to Hogwarts to learn that his school will be hosting a Triwizard Tournament. One champion from Beauxbatons, Durmstrang and Hogwarts, the three largest European schools of magic, will compete against each other in three tasks. But only those seventeen and older can enter. Since Harry is fourteen, he won’t be selected as a champion. Right? Well, wrong, but read the book to learn, as Paul Harvey advises, the rest of the story.
There’s many fun, quirky moments in the tale like Hermione’s quest to organize a union for the house-elves who perform the menial labor at Hogwarts. There’s a shady tabloid journalist named Rita Skeeter whose reporting methods would get her fired from the National Enquirer. A Quidditch World Cup between Ireland and Bulgaria features unusual game souvenirs including “collectible figures of famous players, which strolled across the palm of your hand, preening themselves.”
J.K. Rowling, Harry’s creator, has authored a charming, imaginative fable where the ancient theme of good vs. evil plays a prominent role. But buyer beware. This is a book that’s being marketed to children as young as nine, and parental discretion is advised.
The tale begins with the murder of an elderly caretaker and concludes with the death of a youth. The showdown with the creepy Wormtail involves some blood-letting from Harry. I found the few “damns” casually being tossed out of characters’ mouths unnecessary. Finally, Harry’s infatuation with a popular girl and his having to find an escort for the Yule Ball won’t be appreciated by adults who think young teens should wait before they form dating-type relationships.
There’s seven Potter books planned - so four down, three to go. Since Ms. Rowling’s value system remains a mystery, my imagination runs wild as to where she might venture in future works. Will the violence grow really ghoulish? Will more good guys die? Will Harry morph into a serial dater?
It will be a feat of real hocuspocus if J.K. Rowling can wave her writer’s wand and craft a classic without succumbing to the low standards of the entertainment industry. For the millions of impressionable children who are so fond of Harry Potter, I hope she plots carefully and tastefully.
This article appeared in The Edmond Sun on August 11, 1999.
Isabel Lyman lives in Edmond, Oklahoma. A former editorial columnist for the Daily Hampshire Gazette of Northampton, Massachusetts, her views have appeared in various national publications, including the Wall Street Journal and Investors Business Daily. She may be contacted via e-mail by clicking here.
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