Friday, March 12, 2010

Which Harry Potter Would Make Your Top Ten?

One of the most interesting things I've noted, as I've been reading and enjoying Fuse #8 (Betsy Bird) count down the 100 Top 100 Children's Novels, is just how deeply attached readers are to series books. Perhaps it's not surprising since series provide room for stories to obtain epic or multi-generational dimensions. They also give us more page-time with characters, making them feel like beloved friends we've seen not once, but on many return visits.

My own top ten, which I submitted, contained 4 clear series with 3 more that aren't always billed heavily as a series but have sequels that continue with the same characters...hence, they're series! My 7 out of 10 seems to be running just about exactly with the percentage of series books being listed in the overall poll results.

And it was hard to decide which book from the series to choose, something that's been discussed a good bit in the comments at Betsy's blog. If you can only choose one, which one do you choose? Do you go for the first book in the series (which she says she defaulted to if someone listed an entire series as their choice, or said they couldn't possibly choose only one) since that's where characters, setting and story are all introduced? Do you go for the final book of the series, where stories often come to a powerful and cathartic ending? Do you choose the book that drew you most deeply into the series in the first place, or hooked you so you knew you were definitely going to keep reading to the end? Or do you simply choose the one book in the series you ended up loving the most, the one you tend to go back to more than any other? (You know, the one whose binding fell apart first...)

It's a hard call. I found myself defaulting most often to the first book in the series, in part because it was "where it all started" but also sometimes because it was really my favorite. In one case only did I find myself going with the third book in a series.

Of course I've been especially fascinated to watch the poll for Harry Potter. It's interesting to note which books are coming in as "most beloved" and why ~ and there's an interesting mix of people, including teachers, parents, librarians, and yes, kids, who voted. With only the top 25 books left to count down, 3 HPs have made it so far, and comment speculation is keen regarding which of the others will make it or whether or not all 7 might. Care to guess which 3 have made it?

Chamber of Secrets came in at #86, Order of the Phoenix at #38, and Goblet of Fire at #35.

So what do you think? Will the other 4 Harry Potters show up in the top 25? I think Sorcerer's Stone and Azkaban definitely will; I'm less sure about Half-Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows, which seem to work better in tandem than each on their own.

And if you were ranking your top 10 children's novels (defined here as mid-grade books for 8-12 year olds) of all time, would Harry make your list? And if so, which Harry?


Erin said...

I'm a little surprised OotP ranked so much higher than CoS, since the former was so much longer, denser and darker. I think the other four have a good shot, especially the first and third. I'm so bad at choosing favorites, I really don't know which one I would go with. I love each one for different reasons. I'd probably rank OotP as my least favorite, though there's a lot I really like about that one too.

Eeyore said...

Hmmm, if I had to only choose one, it would be Deathly Hallows, where all things are concluded (or enough to make me happy anyway). The first would be my 2nd choice and POA or OP would be close. Oddly enough, as much as I enjoyed GOF, it has never been one of my favorites, not as the book or the movie. And I'm surprised it's ranked so high as I remember it being the one where people obsessed over the plot holes and seemed to delight in tearing it apart.

I don't think I really could choose only one HP book actually. The reason I like certain ones is because the story took a turn there and revealed things I had not expected; even though they are part of the same story, the parts aren't all the same and they stand out for completely different reasons.

I didn't see on the list, but is there just a list of the book titles without reading through the description of each one?

Beth said...

Erin, I was surprised by that Phoenix ranked higher than Chamber too. I wonder how much of it is due to the fact that, for many people, the series got more beloved as time went on...also that the movie version is so much more recent.

I love them all for different reasons too. I went with Sorcerer's Stone because, although I don't think it's the strongest book in the series, it's where it all started -- and where our trio first bonds. Plus I'm in awe whenever I go back to it and realize how beautifully JKR creates a complex secondary world and tone from the very start, and how she is already laying such careful clues to later elements of the series!

Beth said...

Pat, that's interesting that you'd choose DH. I loved it, but it's so hard for me to separate it out from everything that stands before it. I think if I had to choose one book that stands best on its own, I'd probably choose Chamber...added to which, I have a huge fondness for it since it was the book that really got me completely hooked on the series.

I too was surprised that GoF ranked so high. People did indeed seem to delight in tearing apart the plot, which seemed more elaborately constructed than any of the rest. I was surprised though, when I re-read the series last year, how much I loved Goblet when I re-read it. And although I'm not a big fan of the HP movies in general, I actually liked Goblet quite a bit, though I think I might be the only person on the planet who does. :-) It's partly due to Doyle's score!

Beth said...

Oh, and Pat, I don't think there's one place you can go to for the streamlined list of books on the poll -- at least not yet that I've seen. It's worth scrolling through the links if you're interested, though I do wish there was a short version somewhere just with titles. Maybe once all 100 titles have been announced!

Erin said...

One really great thing about Phoenix - it finally introduces Luna. Seems so weird to me that she wasn't around before then; like Jacob, I can't help kind of imagining her into earlier parts of the series.

I might have to go with Chamber as my favorite too. It's just so funny, and lots of important clues laid down as well.

One of the things I love about the GoF movie is that brief post-World Cup celebration, which is so Irish-flavored that I kinda feel like I want to watch the beginning of the movie in honor of St. Patrick's Day. :)

My Boaz's Ruth said...

I loved the HP books, but there are so many good children's books out there they did not come close to making my top ten.

For the series books I did choose, I defaulted to first book in the series.

Beth said...

I know what you mean: there is such a richness of wonderful books for children. After I turned in my top ten, I thought of others that I might have included...and I keep thinking of more as time goes by! It will definitely be interesting to see the final top ten on the poll.

Beth said...

Pat, if you're checking back in on comments at all...there is now a place where you can go for a streamlined list of all the books on the poll. It's at a blog called Six Boxes of Books.

The poll is up through #12 now -- the Hobbit made it onto the list today (hooray!).

My Boaz's Ruth said...

Harry did not make my top 10 books. He did not make my top 20 either. I enjoyed the series, but there are too many other books out there I enjoy more.

If it wasn't for fandom/being able to talk to others about Harry Potter as it came out, I don't think it would rank as highly as it does in my estimation. It'd be just another coming of age series.

Beth said...

I know that communal reading and conversation about the Harry Potter books was certainly a huge part of their richness for me! But then I don't know many books (written for children or adults) that lend themselves so readily to such layered conversation. I think if HP was merely a solid coming of age story, it wouldn't have sparked the kind of creative chord/response it did in so many readers, young and old. The fact that Rowling managed to combine a coming of age tale with mystery, comedy of manners, elements of fairy-tale and fantasy, alchemical literature, and Christian themes, among other things, is part of what makes these books so delightful -- and why they're worth re-reading.

But I think a lot of the stories on the top 100 poll are the ones that have held up as worthy re-reads...or in the case of the newer titles, they have that re-reading potential. They've provided characters we care about and/or story worlds we love to return to again and again.