The other day I was thinking about why middle grade books are dynamic. These books chronicle kids struggling through transitions. Sometimes the struggles are HUGE and sometimes they are everyday. In truth I’m attracted to both. The amazing Harry Potter series does both. It offers a fully realized world, lovable and distinct characters who face problems both big and small. August 27th marked the 18th anniversary of the (Scholastic) publication of the first Harry Potter book. And as a writer and a mom I want to say three big thank yous to J.K. (Jo) Rowling!
1) Thank you because I couldn’t get two out of three of my sons interested in reading anything on their own until Harry Potter. I’d read with my oldest (lovely) and he was a capable reader but wasn’t interested in reading a novel without me until HP. One day after a particularly exciting chapter, he snuck into his room and kept on reading and reading and reading. And now he’s a college student and doing the very same (not Harry Potter, mind you but I know it sparked his love of reading).
2) Thank you for including vocabulary that stretches. Here is a list of just a few words in Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone: apothecary, befuddle wrench, smarmy, wheedle, tureen, luminous. And a later book: Harry and the Half Blood Prince: surreptitious, aggrieve, unctuous, copse just to name a few. In fact, I’d say as the book went out Rowling just enriched the vocabulary. My kids learned so many new words. I learned so many new words. As an author, I think it’s important to reach kids where they are at, but, wow, it’s also important to allow them to grow.
3) Thank you for publishing a book that both kids and adults alike read. After the publication of Harry Potter was the first time I could go out into the world and say I was a children’s book author without this inevitable follow-up question. So when are you going to write for adults? As if writing for grown-ups only was the end all, be-all goal of all writers.
I have never once again gotten this question. Thank you, J.K. (Jo) Rowling!
Hillary Homzie is the author of the newly released Queen of Likes (Simon & Schuster MIX 2016), The Hot List (Simon & Schuster MIX 2011) and Things Are Gonna Be Ugly (Simon & Schuster, 2009). She can be found at hillaryhomzie.com and on her Facebook page.