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Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, read-aloud

I've wondered for quite some time about what age to begin reading Harry Potter to my son.  Thirty-eight, it turns out.  Oh, and the boy's nine.  At this point, I'm not planning on reading straight through the series; we'll probably lay off for a few months before moving on, if we move on at all.

Back when Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone first came out, I was a bit disgusted with all the negative press from Christian circles and decided to read the book for myself, after a recommendation from my little sister.  Her word carries a lot of weight with me.  So I read the first book and was entirely delighted.  Of course, there are some parts in the book that could give a kid the creepies, and there are certainly some unfortunate tendencies in Harry and his friends to color outside the lines.

But the biggest reason I'm questioning continuing the series has nothing to do with the content of the book.  It's just that I didn't like the first book as a read-aloud.  Maybe it's just that J.K. Rowling was just introducing the universe, but I found it a bit wordy.  Reading to myself I didn't notice this, but as a read-aloud, I just found the chapters a bit too long and the prose just seemed to have "too many notes."

Of course, in amongst the too many notes are gems like this:

Mr. Dursley stood rooted to the spot. He had been hugged by a complete stranger. He also thought he had been called a Muggle, whatever that was. He was rattled. He hurried to his car and set off for home, hoping he was imagining things, which he had never hoped before, because he didn't approve of imagination.

Love that.  I actually feel that this indictment of Mr. Dursley nicely sends up that vocal group of people who criticized the book back when it first came out without reading it. 

Now, all this about too many notes of course doesn't mean I didn't like the book.  This was my third time through, and the first I've read it since finishing the entire series, so I got that wonderful hindsight insight.  Great stuff.  And let me just say that I have a man crush on Neville.  He's just a straight up stud, folks.  Where his character ends up is exactly true to how he started out.

Now, if I'm being completely honest here, I have to admit that part of my hampered enjoyment of the read-aloud came from my vocal circuits getting a bit overloaded.  This is a problem that comes from reading a book after having seen the film.  Particularly one with wall-to-wall accents.  I just can't do them all and read in a nice flow.  It's just not going to happen.

I can do a pretty mean Hagrid and a passable Dumbledore (Richard Harris version), my Ron goes in and out, and my McGonagall is probably better than it should be.  But I cannot do Snape to save my life, and I've seen *tons* of Alan Rickman movies.  (I vented about this failing of mine to the Boy and he took the opportunity to tell me I do an awesome Malfoy.  That made me feel better, though I'm not sure what I did right other than basically spit every word he spoke.)

With any luck I'll finish up my last remaining Library book (I took the other one back) this week, and then I'm going to read a few I've bought recently.  Maybe I'll put together a preview post for my planned reading.  Maybe.

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  1. I completely understand this problem Seth. Most of the books I have chosen to read aloud to our kids have been just right, but there have been a few that were such a chore! We were spoiled early on by C.S. Lewis whose books read aloud so well. =) Recently we have started Fellowship of the Ring and found it to be more than a tad wordy for reading aloud. In this book there is also the issue of so many characters who each need their own voices – voices you have heard in the movie. I’m not bad at accents, but it’s hard to mimic real people (so much easier to just use a generic Scot/German/French, etc. accent). It’s been a bit frustrating, but I’m hoping that we’ll settle into it eventually just because we love the story!

    • Yeah, Tolkien is tough even for read-silently. I thought about reading The Hobbit to Ethan, but I had a hard enough time with it by myself. I’ve enjoyed LOTR both times I’ve read the series, but I don’t think we’re ready for it yet. Thought I might give Percy Jackson a run.

  2. Knico and I listened to most of the Harry Potter series years ago. The guy who does the audiobooks is *stunning*. He’s so good that Knico was ready to displace me as Official Bedtime Reader when the boys wanted to start the series. I vetoed the move, but I know there’s no way I could live up to that guy since they now listen to it on car rides. Tonight, we just finished the first book of The Chronicles of Prydain, which I grew up on in grade school. Having recently done The Hobbit as well as all five Percy Jackson books (and The Red Pyramid, which I found disappointing), the boys are now after me to tackle The Lord of the Rings. I think it’ll be fine. Their imaginations won’t rival Peter Jackson’s on visceral evil. Meanwhile, maybe you and I can hook up someday for a LOTR read-off. May the worst British accent win! 😉

    • That’s Jim Dale, isn’t it? He really is incredible. No way I could measure up to him. I read the entire Prydain series to Ethan last year and he loved them. He’s planning on reading them himself this year, and he’s also taken in the audio versions, which are excellent, though not quite up to Jim Dale’s standards.

      Have your boys already seen LOTR? My boy isn’t after me about it because he has no reference point for it.

  3. Jim Dale, yes. No, they haven’t watched LOTR yet. Might be a while. I remember a lot of gooey, bloody, scary orc action in those flicks, and I’d rather not have to hear about it from the SO when little Devon crawls into bed next to mom every night for a week from bad dreams. The books will do us fine for now. And besides…reading Tolkien was how I wooed Knico in the first place. Seems only fitting I should read it to our kids first and leave the Hollywood experience for later.

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