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In light of the huge reader response, other fantasy and children’s authors were asked to comment on the books. Ursula Le Guin (Earthsea Trilogy) found it “imaginatively derivative” and limiting to readers in its age group. Stephen King (Carrie), however, praised all of its elements.
The hoopla peaked with the appearance of a Harry Potter book on The New York Times bestseller list in 2003, prompting both a nod and shake of the head from Yale professor of literature Harold Bloom. He acknowledged the power of the books as children’s top sellers, but considered them a dumbing down of fiction overall. That author J. K. Rowling has stated that she “makes no demands upon her readers” which is the same limitation Le Guin noted, and Bloom, too, rates her prose as better than nothing: “Why read it? Presumably, if you cannot be persuaded to read anything better. . . .”
Ranking the Critics
The very same reason for some of Le Guin’s and Bloom’s distaste, however, was praised by librarians, teachers and parents of so-called reluctant readers. They claimed that the lack of stylistic or imaginative demands is what encouraged these youngsters to devour the Harry Potter books. This palatability is reinforced through the six Harry Potter movies based on the series. Readers can recognize the themes and character details that they’ve absorbed brought to life on the screen, as seen in the latest movie, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
Publisher Gets Boost From Potter
In addition to helping kids pick up books and stay interested, the income generated by Harry Potter titles allows its publishers to promote books other than JK Rowling’s that might stay buried at other houses.
Harry Potter’s American publisher, Scholastic, boasts an assorted list of award-winners and “small books” that it markets via its school book club. With the mega success of Harry Potter titles, the publisher can afford to take a chance on a greater number of less mainstream books. While literary criticism Harry Potter is warranted, the books’ strengths counteract many of their weaknesses.
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