“Sorcerer’s Stone” – 309 pages.
“Chamber of Secrets” – 341 pages.
“Prisoner of Azkaban” – 435 pages.
“Goblet of Fire” – 734 pages.
Grand total: 1,818 pages
((“Order of the Phoenix” – 870 pages.))
Yeah. I don’t think so.
At long last we made it to the end of the 4th book in the Harry Potter series; which is to say *I* made it to the end of 1,818 pages — bit by bit, night after night, reading aloud to my two older children over the better part of a year. As per our agreement we let them watch the 4th movie for Friday movie night. As excited as they are about those stories and as pumped as they were for the movie, there has been an twinge of sadness in the air since then because sadly, at least for the time being, this is where we have to stop.
In less than 12 months, with the exception of the odd guest-reader here and there, this DorkDaddy has read aloud every single one of those pages, doing all of the voices and keeping them all straight in my head. I don’t mind admitting I’m exhausted. But more importantly, this is where the subject matter really extends beyond the grasp of a 7 and 5 year old. “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” is where the series, much like the kids in it, matures from children’s fare to young adult material. Students at Hogwarts start to notice other boys/girls in *that* way, and the romance angle between Hermione and Ron shows its first signs of life. Thankfully at this point all those nuances are lost on my kids. This is also where Lord Voldemort legitimately comes back to life in a dark, sacrificial ritual and the larger epic life-or-death struggle between dark and light factions comes starkly into focus. A classmate of Harry’s is even killed outright. I think we can all agree that there’s no need to push a kindergartener and 2nd grader into that sort of material before they’re ready.
That said, my daughter being who she is, made an impassioned plea to read book 5 to herself, on her own, and keep going with the series. Here’s the thing. The rule in the house has always been that you have to read the book before you can watch the movie. That’s been a great strategy for keeping inappropriate movie material out of their reach. The next book in the series “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” is 870 pages long. In all seriousness, the way I see it if a kid is mature enough to legitimately make it through a 870 page book completely on their own, he or she should be mature enough to handle the subject matter. So when Episode IV made her case, I handed the book over to her knowing the chances were slim.
Still, Saturday night after the boys went down, Episode IV went to her room with a new Harry Potter book to read and a twinkle in her eye. This was big kid stuff. To sweeten the deal I even told her she could stay up as late as she wanted, so long as she was reading from that book. I tucked her in, kissed her on her forehead, wished her “good night and good luck” with a wink, and closed her bedroom door. UnDorkMommy went out for mom’s-night-out with her girlfriends and I settled in to dip my toe into a new video game.
Half an hour later Episode IV came out of her room and padded down the hallway to me. “Daddy,” she said sadly, a defeated look on her face. “I like it better when you read it to me.” Bless her sweet heart, she pushed through seven pages before she had to acknowledge that a book like that is just a little bit bigger than she could chew. I hugged her, told her it was OK, and took her back to her room to tuck her in again.
“But Daddy,” she said. “What are we going to read now?” The flaw in my plan was revealed. For all my hand-wringing about how I was going to wean her off of the Harry Potter books I forgot to have a viable alternative ready to go. I scrambled quickly through the house for something that might be comparably dorky and appropriate for her age and stumbled across “The Hobbit”. We’ve had a false start or two on that book before when she was younger, but I’m happy to report that the tone and the style of “The Hobbit” is now perfectly suited for my precocious 2nd grader.
After our first installment reading and our 2nd good-night tucking in of the evening, Episode IV said to me “Daddy, I like the Hobbit OK and we can keep reading it, but it isn’t my favorite because there aren’t any girls in it.” Fair enough, sweetheart. Fair enough.
Although I must say I suspect, at least in my daughter’s mind, that Hermione Grainger could hold her own pretty well in a wizard’s duel against Gandalf The Gray.
Any suggestions for female-friendly, 2nd grade appropriate, fantasy-type books would be appreciated.