Opinion Column

Petawawa Library: The return of an old favourite - How Harry Potter is still popular in 2016

By Katelyn Schubert

Magic has returned to the book world with the recent release of the 8th Harry Potter book, ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’. ‘Potterheads’ have been eagerly waiting for this instalment that author J.K. Rowling said would never happen. Pre-order sales skyrocketed at book stores, midnight launch parties attracted hundreds and everywhere on social media people are begging their friends not to post any spoilers. I’ll admit that all of this sounds like hype about a new iPhone or the latest Taylor Swift album, but I am pleased to say that this is all happening because of a book!

Harry Potter is one of those series that has stood the test of time and does something that’s pretty remarkable; it closes the gap between generations. Working in a library, I see four year olds and 40 year olds excited about the Hogwarts universe. The generation that grew up with Harry, Hermonie and Ron are now introducing the books to their children, who amazingly find it exciting and not boring! So what does it come down to? Why is it that some of our beloved children’s book series don’t seem to click with today’s youth, and some do?

At least once a month, I witness a mom or dad coming to the library with their child and getting excited about the books they remember. Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys, The Babysitters Club and Goosebumps seem to be the most popular. Nine times out of 10, the children will want nothing to do with these series. It could be the fact that they want to pick something themselves, they don’t trust their parent’s judgment, or that the content isn’t really relevant.

Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys have done a good job attempting to revamp their look to make the books more appealing to today’s generation. Covers have been changed to feature more modern looking characters and spin-off series have been developed to attract even younger readers to hopefully grow up with the series. All this is great in theory, but kids are still flocking to more books like Goosebumps or Harry Potter.

I believe the answer is in the fantasy. Kids today have a harder time grasping why Nancy doesn’t just turn to her GPS or Google Search to find the answers she needs or how The Hardy Boys have time to do all that travelling when they are still in high school and should be swamped with exams.

I remember being obsessed with Goosebumps when I was a kid. I loved how dangerous and unrealistic it was. When Harry Potter came on the market, I thought a story about a wizard and a whole realm of magic within a mortal universe was so interesting and imaginative.

Fantasy doesn’t age and the proof is in the stacks. Look at what is popular still today – The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, The BFG and The Chronicles of Narnia, just to name a few.

I am not saying that books like Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys aren’t great because they absolutely are, but the audience is very specific. Harry Potter is one of those series that brings together readers who like action, romance, science fiction and of course, magic.

Reading a new book that is from a beloved series is always exciting and I love being smack dab in the middle of it. The craziness over the new Harry Potter book just shows that literature is anything but dead. Those people hanging outside shops these past few weeks weren’t searching for ‘Pokémon’, they were waiting for none other than a good old book and that makes my librarian-self oh so happy.

Visit the Petawawa Public Library today to place a hold on the new Harry Potter and while you’re at it, pick up a Nancy Drew for old-time-sake!

Katelyn Schubert is the Children and Teen Services co-ordinator at the Petawawa Public Library

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