Anything that makes people read more makes me happy. Therefore, the Harry Potter phenomenon makes me happy. People are really, really excited! About a book! How fucking cool is that?
But man, I wish people would go nuts over a better book.
Oh yes, that’s right. I think Harry Potter is vastly overrated. The premise is all right, but based on what I read (all of the first book, half of the second) the writing was pedestrian at best, boring at worst, and rife with cliches. Someone I knew wrote this very interesting post about the magic system and pinpointed something else that was bothering me:
Anyway, maybe I’m being picky, but [Candy] is certainly right, the writing is nothing to write home about. But most of all the MAGIC is rather silly.
I’m not even quite sure what I mean by that – but the magic seems kind of spoofy and farcical in nature like – oh, I’m going to go take Magic Charms 101. And then Hagrid is going to move the plot along by doing something stupid. And then I’m going to fly around on a magic broom. And wear an invisibility cloak. Forgive me if I didn’t get past the first book.
And then there’s the division of the kids into 4 types of people: the heroes, the villains, the clumsy idiots, and the smartypants. That irks to no end.
I feel like you can tell a lot about a book or author by the way they use magic. The magic in worlds like Ursula LeGuin’s Earthsea (she should be added to the list by the way) or Tolkien’s Middle Earth is much more part of the fabric of the world, much more natural. C.S. Lewis’ magic is based in Christianity – I think. Diane Duane’s books are much more comparable to Rowling’s world, because they are also set in the “real” world, and the magic there is based on the idea that wizards are fighting against the forces of entropy. And Rowling’s magic is…like I said… silly.
Here are some magical children’s books that I’ve read and loved—books that, in my opinion, are Better than Potter:
- The Sword in the Stone by T.H. White (I made my husband read this a couple of years ago and he e-mailed me at work, essentially saying “Holy shit! Best. Book. Evar.”)
- Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
- Any of the books in the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
- Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
- The Neverending Story by Michael Ende
- The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
- Bedknob and Broomstick by Mary Norton
- Five Children and It, The Phoenix and the Carpet and The Story of the Amulet by E. Nesbit (really, ANYTHING by E. Nesbit is brilliant)
- The Darkangel trilogy by Meredith Ann Pierce (The Darkangel, A Gathering of Gargoyles and The Pearl of the Soul of the World
- Redwall by Brian Jacques (the first book is astonishingly good, but the rest of the series is crrrrrap)
- Anything from the Wizard of Oz series by L. Frank Baum.
- The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien (The Lord of the Rings trilogy is a series that I think is somewhat overrated—a lot of the dialogue and ALL of the poetry/songs have literally made me gag, they’re so stilted and awful, though I admit nobody can beat Tolkien when it comes to world-building, and I acknowledge that Tolkien is largely responsible for creating the modern fantasy genre as we know it)
- Anything by Philip Pullman—I have the His Dark Materials trilogy in my TBR stacks, and I’ve heard many, many good things about them, and unlike Harry Potter, I have no doubt that these books will live up to their hype
Feel free to fire away in the comments and tell me what a shitful freak I am. Or if, like me, you’re a fellow children’s book/YA novel reader who just is not impressed with Harry Potter, feel free to speak up in solidarity. Feel free to recommend your favorite children’s books, too—yes, even if they’re Harry Potter novels.