Rowling Joins Pullman Contra Ministry Act

No age limits or qualifiers on books, “rival fantasy writers” (?) argue.

Ms. Rowling, of course, is in a better situation because her books are not only on the A-Level exams, they’re also being used in Edinburgh government schools for literature, music, and art classes.


  1. revgeorge says

    I agree with their aims. I think putting age categories on books would definitely pigeon hole them in some regards. Kind of like how the one best seller list got tired of HP always being on top of the list so they downgraded it to the children’s list.

    But if the publishers want to do it, well, it’s their business. Personally, I’ve always been of the opinion that parents should research & make judgments on what their children are reading.

  2. revgeorge says

    I just think in some ways it might pigeon hole them. And the fact that they had to have two different covers in the UK, one for kids & one for adults, might indicate that some people would balk at reading a book marked just for children. Maybe in America we don’t have too many problems reading kid stuff. I don’t know.

    But, in fact, some of the best literature out there is children’s books.

  3. revgeorge says


    Just a quick search of wikipedia seems to indicate that The Hobbit was definitely marketed as a children’s book. I’m not so sure about the LOTR.

    I do know that I first heard of The Hobbit in about 4th grade in the mid-70’s when our teacher read it to us in class. She also read The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe. Both of which & their respective series I immediately had my mom buy for me. And have been hooked ever since. Probably the best things I got out of my public school education. 🙂

  4. Do you think if Ms. Rowling’s books had carried a label “for ages 9-11” or “children only” it would have slowed the Potter juggernaut? I knew when I picked up ‘Sorcerer’s Stone’ that it was published by Scholastic and was a “kid’s book” (I read it to preview the story for my oldest daughter who wanted to read it).

    I was still up almost all night, astonished. delighted. and hooked. And the NYTimes Sorting Hat didn’t have much of an effect on sales, right?

    I’d be more concerned if Pullman’s books were pigeon-holed as kid-lit because so many thoughtful readers tell me they’re poison, however beautifully written. (No, I still haven’t read any.) How about a warning label for them? Or would that have the same effect as Christian Harry Haters protesting Ms. Rowling’s books, i.e. making sales sky rocket?

  5. Slightly off-topic, maybe, but do any of the Tolkienites in the audience recall how The Hobbit and LOTR were marketed when published?

    Curious John, thinking about JRRT in a dust-jacket labeled “for children”

  6. Red Rocker says

    Reminds me of the “Restricted” section of the Hogwarts Library.

    I’m against labelling books. If you can decipeher the vocabulary and syntax, then you’re old enough to grapple with the concepts. But then I grew up always feeling that I didn’t have enough books, that there were never enough books. And the books I read as a chlld were not “children’s lit”. They were a mish mash of classics and modern day authors which I found in the school library or picked up in book stores. Ivanhoe. Dracula. A Tale of Two Cities. Brothers Karamozov. Scaramouche. The Virginian. The short stories of O Henry and De Maupassant. Sherlock Holmes. None of them, as far as I can recall, were written for children.

    Another way of looking at it is this: you should be able to tell if a book is aiming for a specific age group by reading a few lines. You shouldn’t need a publisher’s stamp to tell you.

  7. revgeorge says

    Agree with Red Rocker & Nzie. My mom & grandma read to me constantly & I picked up reading from them. I didn’t need anybody in school to teach it to me per se & was already reading more advanced stuff than what was in our classes. Not to say I didn’t learn anything from my classes but that was because I was generally skipping ahead through the text books & reading the sections for more advanced grades.

    But of course everyone goes at their own pace, which is what I dislike about standardized schooling is that everyone is pretty much kept on the same pace in every subject. Ah well.

    I share your pet peeve, Nzie. I was always shocked & dismayed when I kept finding out that my confirmation students, especially the ones who were supposed to be excelling in school, couldn’t write a decent, coherent 3 sentence paragraph!

  8. I don’t think age guidelines are a problem in general, because there is nothing to stop someone from buying a book not in their age group. I first read SS/PS at age 20– oops. 😉 Also, my youngest sister is way ahead of her age in reading, and skipped a grade; there is nothing to stop her from reading books above the suggested age. It’s just a suggestion– who cares? I think there are bigger battles to fight on the book front, like making sure the kids can read and, my recent pet peeve, learn their grammar (the sheer volume of verb form mistakes alone makes me want to tear my hair out).

    The Hobbit was a kids’ book, but there are many adults who love it. LotR I don’t really consider a kids’ book, and I don’t know if it was marketed as such. That hasn’t stopped plenty of kids from reading them– and learning how to use a dictionary in the process. I always read what I wanted to read– the small school library had a complete volume of Sherlock Holmes, and I devoured it. I doubt it was marketed for 12 year olds.


  9. Anybody else curious about the Skeeteresque comment that Rowling and Pullman were somehow “rivals”? For what prize are they competing? Most protested work of fantasy literature? Ms. Rowling has him for longevity, perhaps, but the intensity of the Pullman criticism is second only to Dan Brown’s being revealed for what he is.

  10. korg20000bc says

    Red Rocker,
    Yay for Sabatini! One of my all time favourites. I was talking with my wife’s grandmother about what we were reading and when I told her I was reading Sabatini’s- Nuptuals of Corbal she was really surprised. She hadn’t heard of anyone reading his work since she was in primary school when she had read them. I imaging that they must’ve been fairly challenging for a primary school aged kid but it is an excellent thing to be stretched or challenged in our development.

    Sometimes I pick up a book and realise that it is going to make me work to understand it. That can be a good or bad thing depending on the author’s skill and the subject matter, I suppose.

  11. Arabella Figg says

    At 10 I read Tarzan (the novel, not the comic book). By junior high I was firmly in the library’s adult section. At 13 I did a book report on The Caine Mutiny. At 15 I was reading Leon Uris. My parents never censored our reading (whether because they were absorbed in their own dramas or thought we were “safe”). I read what I enjoyed and learned a lot (although a lot went over my head).

    Kids, like water, will find their own level. And, as an adult, I greatly enjoy some YA authors.

    Yes, Nzie. Grammar! Spelling! You ought to see the readerboard signage here in Spokane.

    As to the “rivals” bit, I think that’s probably the reporter’s innocuous embellishment rather than Skeeterism. As I recall, Rowling said something positive about Pullman in a post-DH interview.

    “Rivals” Tuna Yumgood and Big-Eye Foody are fighting over the food bowl. Aaaaannnd…latecomer Thudders wins!…

  12. I would think one dichotomy present between the works of Rowling and Pullman might be found in the authors’ intent for their individual works:
    Rowling brings us a story of self-sacrifice and good over evil. According to one of Pullman’s published interviews (the reference was posted on one of the HogPro threads within the last year), he set out to kill God (the ultimate example of love) in the minds of children.

    Enough rivalry for me, thank you.

  13. On the issue of age-appropriate literature guidelines…

    Libraries sort/house their collections in this manner all the time. Why have Children’s/ Youth/ Adult sections if the books aren’t separated accordingly?

    Doesn’t mean readers are not allowed to cross the invisible lines…however, for the librarians working these great buildings of literary store, the divisions make inventory a lot easier!

  14. Gladius Terrae Novae says

    I’m definitely against the age limits. This allows the government to make moral decisions about what our kids should and shouldn’t read. I simply cannot trust the secular government with any moral decisions, especially after all the ones I’ve already seen them mess up. Parents should make that decision.

    I believe the same thing about movies. I’ve seen some types of PG-13’s since as long as I can remember, and other PG’s, G’s, and broadcast television was kept out of my sight for quite a long time. I even saw one R movie when I was 9ish.

    Parents should make the decisions on what is and isn’t appropriate. A certain level of violence a kid can take, but Saving Private Ryan is on broadcast, as well as Sex and the City. That’s one decision I just don’t trust the government with.

  15. Where did the idea that this would be imposed by the government come from? The article says that they’re protesting limits imposed by the publishers, not the government:
    Harry Potter author JK Rowling is joining hands with joined rival fantasy writer Philip Pullman in a bid to block plans by publishers to put age guidance limits on books.

    That doesn’t make any sense – publishers have been doing that for years already! It’s a really helpful guideline for purchasing books. I bought some books online for my nephews who live overseas, and having them sorted by age and grade was a huge help.

  16. I’m afraid the idea came from my post headline: “Ministry Act.” Mea culpa!

    Amy’s clarification only makes this more confusing. UK publishers don’t label and sort their books into age categories? Hard to believe. Or does the word “limits” mean the publishers want to restrict sales to a particular age group? How could they do that and why would they want to?

    Clueless John

  17. korg20000bc says

    It’s like Goldman’s- The Princess Bride. He wrote that he bought the book for his son and his son hated it. Upon reading it for himself he discoverd that it was really a satirical look of the European nobility and his father had only read him the “good” parts when he was a child.

    Kids will surely put something down if it is too far beyond their abilities.

  18. Marmee March says

    Amy’s clarification is important.

    I must disagree with a few other commenters, however. There is poison hiding in some books whose authors have written other innocuous books, at least relatively speaking. I read through a loosely-defined series of books that are all in the children’s section at my local, fairly typical public library, over the past year. As I progressed through the books in the order they were published, I found surprising examples of gratuitous violence in the ones issued after the middle 70’s or so. Since these violent deaths were, as I said, gratuitous, their presence was unpredictable from the dustjacket, first chapter, or previous books. Some of the systemic cruelty in the last book that I could get through was genuinely horrifying. To be fair, I think it was meant as dark humor, but still inappropriate for any child in the Grammar stage of learning, maybe even the Logic stage.

    Parents need warnings about content, but imho, publishers are not a generally trustworthy source for that, nor is the average librarian, only other like-minded parents are. And nothing replaces reading the whole book for oneself, with a discriminating mindset. The reward, of course, comes when one discovers as an adult the gems one missed as a child, which almost goes without saying to HogPro readers.

  19. revgeorge says

    I was thinking about this today driving home while listening to DH. And it struck me that classifying the HP series as children’s literature would be a mistake. Or at least an oversight. I think that, starting with POA & onward, Hp is adult literature that can perhaps also be read by children. Just the depth & meaning put into the work makes it above any easy categorizations like what publishers or censors find easy to use.

  20. revgeorge, I totally agree with you on the mistake in classifying the HP series as children’s literature only. When I read through each book I feel a progressive change in catagory that is two-fold such as, SS and COS in the children’s lit. column, then POA, GOF, HBP and DH in the teen/adult lit. column. There is a change in story and intensity with not only Harry’s age
    and the fuller awareness of the darkness that is threatening him and his friends with each book. The level of scary/frightening confrontation with
    the literary dark forces and the dark lord increases from POA onward in such a way that I feel would keep some parents from introducing the last four books to younger children until they reach the teen years.

    While I feel that publishers should give “voluntary” guidelines on the appropriateness of certain books to be classified “children”, “adults”, the final authority should still rest with the parents NOT the publishers or esp. the government.

  21. John, if memory serves me right, I remember reading a book by Thomas Shippey during my prep for my presentation at Lumos2006 called, ‘The Road to Middle-Earth’. It’s a great work to read for those interested in Tolkien: A History, no pun intended. Dr. Shippey was a contemporary of Tolkien at Oxford and he points out that ‘The Hobbit” was written as faerie story for children, where as the LOTR series was specifically written by Tolkien in the preface as a faerie story for adults. So, it seems Professor Tolkien classified his works as well.

    J K Rowling and Pullman rivals??????? Are they kidding!!!!
    According to, they are not even close. The worldwide sales on DH alone is over 44 million, whereas Pullmans Trilogy, ‘His Dark Materials’ sits at a paltry 15 million! Better than anything I’ll ever get published, but please don’t place Phillip Pullman as a RIVAL to J K Rowling.

    Perhaps Mr. Pullman would have sold more books if he didn’t give away so much of the intent within the Trilogy during his interviews stating that he is the anti-Lewis and called the Chronicles “blatantly racist” and “sexist”. That along with revealing that the evil ruling power in the books, the Magisterium represents the Catholic Church. I would assume that those factors will hurt sales from those within that faith on a large scale.

    Also, news from New Line Cinema/Warner Brothers states that there are NO plans to reprise the movie, ‘The Golden Compass’ with the next book from the Trilogy due to the poor box office showing in the USA.
    Who could have guessed why!!!

    Looking forward to Harry Potter and the HBP this November however!!!

Speak Your Mind