Ainsley came in from school Friday grinning like the cat who ate the canary. She threw open her backpack and held up a well-worn and well-known book.
"Look what I got at the library today!" she said in a sing-song tone usually reserved for "I told you so." And behold, there was Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.
I sighed. Not because I do not want her to read this book; on the contrary, because I want her to read it and love it as much as I do. She'd been lobbying to give the book a shot for several weeks and I had been urging her to maybe wait until she's a little older.
"Just wait a little while," I had said. "I know you're a great reader, but it's really meant for older elementary and middle-school kids. You might get frustrated and give up. That's one I think you will really, really love and I want you to be able to understand it and enjoy it."
So basically I made that book Forbidden Fruit. I've been working with young people for 14 years; you would think I'd know by now that the surest way of getting someone under the age of 21 to do something is to tell them not to do it.
I saw a bookmark in it, and it wasn't on the first page.
"Have you started it yet? Are you getting it?"
She beamed. "I am on the second chapter already."
So it begins. She's getting to know The Boy Who Lived.
Ainsley loves to read, but this summer she wouldn't read for longer than about 5 minutes at a time; the outside in general, and the pool in particular, were always calling. Knowing that we had weekend plans to go to the pool, I bet that I wouldn't see much of her coveted Mr. Potter that weekend.
I bet wrong.
The book went with her everywhere. She took it to the pool and cracked it open at every adult swim and sometimes beyond until we reminded her that it was 90 degrees outside and she might want to stay cool. She read in the car, she read while the television was on and trying to capture her attention, she read sitting outside while we waited for the space station to appear overhead. I've seen her get wrapped up in a book before, but I've never seen one hold her quite to tightly in its grip.
As a school librarian, this doesn't surprise me; the Harry Potter series truly is magical. As Ainsley's mom, I am a little surprised. We own the first movie, and one afternoon I decided to pop it in the player and test the waters; it's not a great movie on its own, but I wanted to see if Ains would take the bait and at least get interested in the story and characters. This has been a couple of years ago, well before I thought she'd be ready to read the books. I just wanted to see if there was any fan-girl potential there. And to get away from the terror of the Barbie movies.
"This is boring," she said about halfway through. "I don't like Harry Potter." And she walked out of the room to go play, leaving my librarian's heart in shreds inside my chest. How can I have a child who doesn't like the Potter?
I'm not sure why all of a sudden the interest in reading the books is there, but I am thrilled. Now that she has started the first one and seems to be loving it she's already asking about the others, and we have told her that reading one a year, so that she matures as Harry matures, might be the best way. As well as she's doing with Sorcerer's Stone, I still don't think she would quite understand the Dementors and why they're so terrifying, not to mention the various mildly gruesome deaths that occur in later books.
Besides, I had to endure long, suspenseful waits between the books...she should, too. Anticipation builds character.
It's been fun these last few days reliving the joy of Harry Potter through her eyes. I've re-read several over the years, mostly in anticipation of whatever movie was being released that year, but nothing quite captures the joy of the first time, does it? Watching Ains read, or listening to Jason read to her at bedtime, takes me back to the week I devoured the first three books. I was in my first library job, working in the education library of a university, fresh out of library school. I'd heard all the buzz surrounding the books, but they were so new (the third one not even published until the summer I graduated) they weren't yet required reading in my children's lit classes. I found myself under doctor's orders to stay away from work for three days due to a suspected case of "walking" pneumonia. To bide the time and to do something vaguely related to my job while recovering, I grabbed the first three books from the library's shelves.
I read one a day. And went into a kind of illness-assisted state of depression that I had to wait months for the fourth one.
When I closed the cover of the final book, I felt I was closing a door. Never again would I enter that world of magic, never again would I wonder if Harry, Ron, and Hermione would all three come out alive in the ultimate showdown of good versus evil, never again would I speculate whether He Who Must Not Be Named could be defeated in the end.
Now I'm getting to live the books again, this time through a different, younger set of eyes. Her excitement when it's time to read the next book, her joy every time she starts a new year at Hogwarts alongside Harry...I'll be right there with her, watching and listening. And being so glad that my kid loves Harry Potter, after all.