Sunday, July 15, 2007

The pre-post-Harry blues

I'm anticipating the last Harry Potter book, and already feeling sad about the fact that there will be no new H.P. adventures to look forward to. Not that this sets me apart from thousands of kids, adults, and the entire kidlit industry.

And so, a week before the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, readers are left to wonder...what next? The Champaign-Urbana News Gazette ran a long feature article in their "Living" section about Harry Potter. [Joan alert: there's a nice picture of Christine Jenkins and the first six H.P. books, and several quotes.] A sidebar listed the reading recommendations for Harry Potter lovers from local librarians and bookstore buyers. And here's what interested me. There were the usual recommendations, many of them excellent, for other fantasy books: MG, YA, and adult. But one recommendation, by Elaine Beardon, the children's librarian at the Urbana Free Library, caught my eye: My Side of the Mountain, by Jean Craighead George.

This is a book that I loved, loved, loved as a kid. It's interesting, though, that a nature adventure would be appear in a list of books that might appeal to Harry Potter fans. Although, if you think about it, a kid living by himself in the woods is pretty much a fantasy. Anyhow, the concept of being totally self-sufficient and in control of your own destiny is one of the most powerful YA themes.

It's not surprising that one of my other favorite books as a kid was The Island of the Blue Dolphins, by Scott O'Dell. Man, how I wanted to be that girl. Only maybe with a few Harry Potter books to keep me entertained.

Which leads me to the NYT review of book 3 of Michelle Paver's Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series, Soul Eater. The reviewer references Harry Potter in the first two words of his review, suggesting that this is another offering that would appeal to fans of Harry Potter.

Interesting, again, because this book doesn't appear to be anything like the H.P. series--it's set 6,000 years ago in Northern Europe, at the end of the last Ice Age. It's almost as if reviewers who really like new books have to reference Harry Potter, however much of a stretch. That said, this sounds like a terrific series, and I have to say that I don't mind at all if the new fantasy trend is the historical/nature adventure.

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