Is Harry Potter ‘Children’s Literature’?

Is Harry Potter Children’s Literature? “Of course it is.”

But is Kid Lit all the Hogwarts Saga is? Just as obviously, “No, there’s more to it than that.”

And what our thinking of Harry’s adventures as Kid Lit obscures is just as significant, maybe more so, than what that pigeon-holing or ‘literary classification’ actually tells us.

Join John for a quick discussion of a fandom and critical community meme that may have out-lived its use-by date — and share your thoughts for or against in the comment boxes below!

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  1. Louise M. Freeman Davis says

    Great video, John, though I barely recognized you without a bow tie.
    Minor quibble– or perhaps an exception that proves the rule. I don’t know how long it is since you read Little House, but before you characterize it as fully non-violent, remember the scene in the opening of Farmer Boy, where the schoolteacher horse-whips two boys in front of the class, slashing their clothes and drawing blood. Granted, they were plotting to beat him up, and had succeeded in killing his predecessor, but still… he did what Mr. Filch wanted to do to Fred and George. One of my favorite examples when people talk like school violence is something new.
    I’ll grant you the sex and swearing as absent, though. As I recall, children were reprimanded for such phrases as “Gosh!” or “Gol ding it!

  2. Great Quibble, Louise!

    I’d note ‘The Long Winter’ nightmare, too, supposedly written as a reproof to those on relief during the Depression by Rose Ingalls Wilder, the Ghost in the Little House.

    I stand corrected — but delighted you enjoyed the video. Have you signed up for PotterPundits notices yet?

  3. Brian Basore says

    Harry Potter widened the definition of Children’s Literature. Bloomsbury published Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, which was awarded the Carnegie Medal in 2010. Nobody Owens was another Boy Who Lived, and he was raised by the dead! It’s only one volume, but it took Neil Gaiman twenty-years to become a good enough writer to write it, by his description.

    Bod was home-schooled except for a short while before he turned fifteen. The ‘magic’ he learned was part of life, not technology, and, of course, death was a well-understood part of life. The book is a murder mystery. The question is who murdered Bod’s real family, and the answer comes along in time for Bod to be safely released as he comes of age.

    That’s Kid Lit, though would it have been published before Harry Potter’s adventures? Neil Gaiman was inspired by The Jungle Book, by Rupyard Kipling, who is not on the current list of children’s or young adult authors.

    All the more reason to celebrate J. K. Rowling’s place in literature.

  4. David Llewellyn Dodds says

    I should probably get browsing in Lance Salway’s A Peculiar Gift : Nineteenth Century Writings on Books for Children (1982), before attempting a comment. For there have been ‘books for children’ for quite a long time: e.g., I was astonished by encountering Lucy Aikin (writing as ‘Mary Godolphin’) and how good her Robinson Crusoe: In Words of One Syllable (1867) is. But what was it like – who read, or refrained from reading, what – when Edith Nesbit’s The Story of the Amulet, and Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sir Nigel, and Rudyard Kipling’s Puck of Pook’s Hill were all appearing in the Strand Magazine at about the same time?

    I like your accent on J.K. Rowling’s “accessibility” – in contrast to Nabokov, which I suppose could be extended to Colette (don’t know, never tried her), but what of Jane Austen? Which children have tended to read her, at what age, since she first appeared? I was struck when I read in Pearl Buck’s autobiography that she had read all of Dickens (not just his books deliberately written for children) at age eight – because my Grandmother had already told me the same thing, about herself!

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