Hi, my name is Katy, and I am a Harry Potter fan.*
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling. Narrated by Jim Dale. Listening Library, 2003.
Now that my son is getting old enough to enjoy Harry Potter, if not quite fluent enough to read them to himself, we’ve been having fun listening to the series on audio. All the rest of the series I’d read in print and listened to on audio, most multiple times. This one, though, is my least favorite, made so unpleasant by Professor Umbridge that the last time I’d been re-listening to the series, I cravenly went to Wikipedia and read the chapter-by-chapter summary there instead. I know.
But this was the boy’s first time through, so no skipping. I still feel that this is the book where Rowling’s editor wimped out on her. I think it could have had a hundred pages or so trimmed and it would have improved the book. The detention scenes with Umbridge in particular are so painful and numerous that my boy and I decided that one was enough, and skipped the subsequent ones. The total length of the book – 23 discs on audio – meant that even listening nearly every day in half hour chunks, it took us months to finish. Even though Jim Dale and his numerous, easily recognizable voices are a joy to listen to and a fantastic introduction to audiobooks in general.
However, I’d forgotten how many of the coolest Harry Potter things are introduced in this book: thestrals, Luna Lovegood, Tonks, bowtruckles, the Room of Requirement, and the DA. Also, Neville starts showing the true depths of his character, and Ginny evolves from the victim she is in Chamber of Secrets into a strong, perceptive character. All in all, I was happy to rediscover these aspects of the book that I’d forgotten in the general awfulness of Umbridge. The one torture scene that we listened to, while painful, gave us the opportunity for a talk on abuse, how to recognize it and what to do about it, in the slightly more comfortable context of a fantasy book rather than real life.
Harry Potter starts to get darker at the end of book 4, with Cedric Diggory’s death, but Order of the Phoenix is for me where things really start to get dark. For the first time, Good People are not in power, and a character we care about very much dies. It will get darker before it’s done, and while we both enjoyed listening to this one again, my boy only just turned nine as we were listening to this book. As I mentioned yesterday, we’re taking a break to listen to The Chronicles of Narnia, and we’ll chat about when is the right time for him to experience the rest of Harry Potter after that. He’s generally tougher than I think he ought to be given his age, but I want to make sure. It’s not like there aren’t plenty of good fantasy books written for nine year olds.