If it was Monday—and you could usually count on Dudley to know the days of the week, because of television—then tomorrow, Tuesday, was Harry’s eleventh birthday. Of course, his birthdays were never exactly fun—last year, the Dursleys had given him a coat hanger and a pair of Uncle Vernon’s old socks. Still, you weren’t eleven every day.
from: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
by J.K. Rowling
illustrated by Mary GrandPré
Although I don’t remember my eleventh birthday celebration, and I’m sure I had one, I remember *being* eleven.
Too old to play with dolls. Too young to have a boyfriend. Misunderstood by pretty much everyone, including myself. Eleven is hard. No wonder so many main characters are eleven.
Even though Harry turns eleven every time I read the first book in his series, he’s really celebrating his 20th publication anniversary (in the United States).
The books stayed on the best seller lists for at least two years. They have been translated into over 73 languages (including Latin and Ancient Greek) and made into full-length live-action movies.
Harry Potter and his author, Jo (J.K.) Rowling, have become household names. Even people who haven’t read one word of one book can identify Harry, Ron, and Hermione. Even people who can’t spell Hermione, or pronounce her name correctly. (I listened to one of the books on a CD from the library and discovered the correct pronunciation.)
Is Harry Potter a classic?
What even makes a book a classic? Here’s my list based on my study of children’s literature, my experience as a children’s librarian, and my pleasure in reading to children, my own, my grandchildren, and story time kids.
- Re-readablility: How many times can you read the same book and enjoy it? Can you find new details that add to your understanding or your child’s? Is it still fun to read and listen to?
- Characterization: Are the characters real? Do they do real things and think real thoughts? Can you and your child both identify with them?
- Philosophical: Does the book help you and your child understand what it means to be human? Life lessons in classic literature are hidden. They’re subtle. Are you still thinking and talking about the book and character(s) even after you finish reading it?
- Emotional: Is the ending satisfying? Surprising, but tied up? Leave you feeling good? Even the sad ones, like Charlotte’s Web and Where the Red Fern Grows?
- Sturdy: Is it able to stand the test of time?
Even though mom took me to the library pretty often and I joined the Summer Reading Club every summer, I’m hard-pressed to think of even one title on my list right now.
I was grown-up (and so were my kids) when Harry Potter first appeared. And my oldest grandson was only six, so I read that on my own. I had to wait till J.K. finished writing the next and the next until I finally closed the covers on the seventh book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
What kept me going back for more? They must be classics!