Since the 1997 release of J K Rowling's first novel - "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" - no series of children's books has been more incredibly popular or widely influential. How do we explain the enormous appeal of these stories to children? In this original interpretation of the Harry Potter sensation, Edmund M Kern argues the attraction of these stories to children comes not only from the fantastical elements embedded in the plots, but also from their underlying moral messages. Children genuinely desire to follow Harry, as he confronts a host of challenges in an uncertain world, because of his desire to do the right thing. Harry's coherent yet flexible approach to dealing with evil reflects an updated form of Stoicism, says Kern.He argues that Rowling's great accomplishment in these books is to have combined imaginative fun and moral seriousness. Kern also shows adults how much they can gain by discussing with children the moral conundrums faced by Harry and other characters.
The author outlines the central morals of each book, explains the Stoic principles found in the stories, considers the common critiques of the books, discusses Rowling's skilful blend of history, legend, and myth, and provides important questions for guiding children through Harry's adventures. This newly updated revision of the original 2003 edition covers all seven books in the Harry Potter series and adds a good deal of commentary to reflect the many new developments in his continuously popular series of books.
Edmund M. Kern (Appleton, WI) is associate professor of history at Lawrence University.