Debbie Curan posed an excellent question regarding books for Young Teens:
How would you handle a series – like HP – where the MC grows older and the series becomes much darker? Starts off as MG then grows up – HP is in the MG section of the bookstore, but the later books I won’t let my guys near until they are firmly in their teens. Just wondering. 🙂
Harry’s growth through the series is matched by a slow progression into darker themes, with a touch of romance. With Harry Potter 7 (movie part 1) coming out next week, I thought I would go over the progression of the books, and what you can expect to find in them (if you’re not an HP fan like myself, or don’t have time to read these hefty books with your kids).
The Harry Potter series was one of the first I reviewed on Ink Spells a year ago. Here’s a quick summary of my review of all seven books:
Harry Potter and the …
|Bk 1: Sorcerer’s Stone||5.5||8+||G||Peril of characters|
|Bk 2: Chamber of Secrets||6.7||8+||PG||Peril of characters|
|Bk 3: Prisoner of Azkaban||6.7||8+||PG||Peril of characters|
|Bk 4: Goblet of Fire||6.8||10+||PG||Death of character, Puppy Love|
|Bk 5: Order of the Phoenix||7.2||10+||PG||Mild torture, a chaste kiss|
|Bk 6: Half Blood Prince||7.2||10+||PG||Death of major character, snogging|
|Bk 7: Deathly Hallows||6.9||12+||PG||Characters injured, tortured and killed|
I consider all the books, with the exception of book 7, to be solidly MG. The first three books are fine for advanced readers 8+, or even younger. Indeed, if you’re looking for a very challenging read for those precocious readers, I can’t think of a better place to start than Harry Potter Bk1-3. Books 4-6 are more mature. Characters die, romance between our heroes is introduced (although remains very chaste) and the torture in Bk5 is chilling. I remember one young man at the theatre sobbing at the end of Movie6. These are things that most kids are better able to handle at ages 10+.
Book 7 is in a class by itself, largely because of the darker themes, which I think bumps it into the Young Teens (12-14) category. Many people may feel they want their younger children to read all the books, if they are interested – and the choice absolutely remains with the parent. You know your child best! But I tend to use even more caution with books that my children truly love, because they identify so strongly with the characters. Having a beloved character die, or be tortured, will have much more impact than a character in a one-off novel they happen to be reading this week.
And so, I have doled out each of the books (and movies) to my boys as they get older. They eagerly await the day they can “step up” to the next novel or movie. Dark Omen (age 12) just finished Bk7 and we are going to see the movie for his birthday with some other 12 yo friends.
These books are WONDERFUL reading challenges for advanced readers. Not only is the reading level high, but the complex storytelling is masterful. There is a reason why these books are beloved throughout the world and have sold more than 400 million copies.
As always, these are just suggestions and you have to tailor to your own child. Mighty Mite (7yo) has already read the first two books – because he was immersed in HP from his older brothers and not easily scared. Worm Burner (9yo) has read the first three, and snuck the fourth while I pretended not to notice him hiding under the covers with his flashlight (we talked about it afterwards, and I’m not sure he even noticed the romance bits). But he’s not ready for Bk5 quite yet, so I’ve held off on that one for him. Dark Omen (12yo) has read them all, but I had to swear him to secrecy about the ending. So far, he’s obliged (turns out having a secret your brothers can’t know is big stuff to a 12 yo).
I hope this helps you navigate the world of Harry Potter! And if you haven’t read these books yourselves, there is much to learn from J.K. Rowling’s writing mastery.