boston.com Arts and Entertainment your connection to The Boston Globe
beverly beckham

Post-Potter solace, not for kids only

I like Harry Potter, really, I do. I read the first two books and saw the first two movies.

But I'm not obsessed. I enjoyed them. But when they were done, I was done.

Maybe I'm just not a big fan of sequels. Or maybe I don't have the kind of stick-to-itiveness that's required when you have to wait a year or two to find out what happens next. Maybe if I had a young child to read the books to, I'd have finished the series.

I wish I were like my youngest daughter and her husband and practically the whole rest of the free world, red-eyed from reading today, dazed and dazzled and needing to talk about what happened and why.

But I have nothing to say, except this: Harry Potter has done what no one before him has been able to do. Not Nancy Drew. Not the Hardy Boys. Not the Bobbsey Twins. Not Batman. Not Spiderman. Not even Superman, with all his powers. Harry Potter, boy wizard, has flung open the door to the world of children's literature. And adults, long grown up, who believed they were too old to go back to that imaginative world and get lost in it, now realize that they can.

I hope the door remains open and that people who don't usually reach for a kid's book will continue to explore what has long been a separate universe. Because kids' books, as Harry has proven, are not for kids only.

And so, some suggestions for what to read now, post-Harry Potter:

There's "Holes," a story that grabs you on the first page. Louis Sachar's novel is about a camp for kids that is really a detention center, a lake that's really a desert, and a group of juvenile delinquents who aren't nearly as delinquent as the adults who oversee them.

There's "The Young Man and the Sea," Rodman Philbrick's Hemingway-like tale about a boy, his father, a fish, and a dream. "Shark Tales," Kelly Bingham's poetic and beautiful debut novel about a shark attack, a young girl, and the real essence of loss. "The Earth, My Butt & Other Round Things" by Carolyn Mackler, a laugh-out-loud-but-serious portrayal of a 15-year-old and her obsession with being overweight and the only imperfect one in her all-too-perfect family -- until her brother shows he's not so perfect after all.

There's "Out of the Dust" by Karen Hesse, a classic written in stanzas, written as a journal, written in so few words that each counts. It's a story that long after the last page has been read leaves you feeling the grit of an Oklahoma dust storm and the heat of fire.

There's "Because of Winn Dixie" by Kate DiCamillo, a tale not just about a dog found in a grocery store; it's also about the healing power of truth.

As is "The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane," also by Kate DiCamillo, a fable, that, like "The Velveteen Rabbit," begs to be read again and again.

There's "Tuck Everlasting" by Natalie Babbitt, a fantasy about a little girl and a magic woods and a family that never grows old. And "Bridge to Terabithia," Katherine Paterson's novel about friendship, imagination, and growing up.

There's "Boy" and "Matilda" and "Witches," all by Roald Dahl. Anything by Roald Dahl is great. Robert Cormier's "The Chocolate War," set in a Catholic school. And Cornelia Funke's "The Thief Lord," a mystery set in Venice.

"The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation" by M. T. Anderson is the most adult of this young-adult-fiction list, a serious look at Boston, pre-Revolution. It's layered, it's full of historic reference, and it's about slavery and equal rights.

And there is this gem: "I Have Lived a Thousand Years" by Livia Bitton-Jackson, a memoir written by a woman who survived Hitler's death camps. She was 13 and living with her family in Budapest when the Nazis arrived.

Read one. Read them all. Harry Potter may have had his last adventure, but in the world of children's literature, there is no shortage of adventure and fantasy and heroes.

Beverly Beckham can be reached at bevbeckham@aol.com. She reads and talks about her columns in her weekly podcast at boston.com/news/podcasts.

SEARCH THE ARCHIVES