The blog of photographer and musician, Kim Ayres

Harry Potter and the Relief of Finishing the Final Book Before Anyone Gave Away the Ending.

Rogan was not yet 7 years old when I started reading him Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone as I settled him down at night, but he absolutely loved it. By the time we’d finished the 3rd book in the series and the first film had come out, I was no longer reading him bedtime stories, but A Tradition had been started. As each new book came out I would read a chapter a day to him downstairs on the couch, sometimes 2 if the timing was right or I was too engrossed to put it down.

As the years have passed, not only has JK Rowling’s writing improved, but so has my reading performance. My array of accents and expression give Stephen Fry a run for his money. My Snape is pure Alan Rickman, Ron is a genuine Essex lad, Professor McGonagall is Miss Jean Brodie to perfection, and my Seamus Finnigan would put a leprechaun asking for his pot of gold to shame.

Earlier in the year I started reading him the Philip Pullman “His Dark Materials” trilogy, which is truly one of the greatest sets of books ever written for people of any age. Despite the superiority of the Pullman books in style, content and vision, however, we had to put them on hold halfway through the final book when Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was released last month.

The simple fact was we dared not delay reading Harry Potter if we wanted to stand any chance of reaching the end before overhearing key plot points or the final outcome, either accidentally or maliciously by school friends or the media. Fortunately we’ve had the summer holidays to limit Rogan’s exposure to his peers who might have let slip, and we’ve managed to keep the TV to a minimum, just in case.

This weekend, we finally read the last chapters. And while we were able to sigh with relief that we’d managed to get to the end of the book without knowing in advance whether Harry lived or died, or how many of the main characters were killed off, I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of sadness at what is, in effect, the end of an era.

There’s been something quite wonderful, creating and enjoying this part of Rogan’s childhood experience. Now he’s 12 years old, I can’t imagine he’ll let me continue to read to him for much longer, but as it is, we’ve gone well beyond the time I thought he’d let me, so each extra page has been a real treat.

Despite the obvious temptation, Rogan never did secretly read ahead, which I have to say seriously impressed me. When I was his age I cannot imagine I would ever have found the patience to wait for someone to read me the next chapter, especially if the book was lying in reach. But then I didn’t have this tradition with my parents, so I can’t be sure. Maybe if such a pattern had been established I might have learned the advantages of delaying gratification a little earlier in life.

27 comments

Mary Witzl said...

How great that you read to your kids, Kim. We did too, and up until very recently my husband was still reading to them from the Garth Nix series. And they all love Philip Pullman's books, though I have yet to read them.

My eldest and I have slogged through the first two Harry Potter books in Japanese -- together! -- and I am almost prouder of that feat that I am of my graduate degree. It was pure teeth-pulling hell, but she read every single word. Aloud.

As for the final HP book, my husband bought this barely an hour after it had hit the bookstores; by that evening our eldest had finished it, and by the next day our youngest was done. My husband got it next, and I only finished it last week.

Some people have other things to do, you see...

Carole said...

I am so in the minority here. After reading the first 4 HP books, I decided that I couldn't take another one. Luckily for J.K. Rowling her huge dynamic income didn't depend on me. My son cannot understand how I could just get bored and quit reading them. And he is such a fan of Stephen Fry, although feels like in this last book reading he didn't do a good Snape. I don't know. I did however assign this last book to my book club which meets this Saturday, but Ethon is going to come in and guest moderate for me, because I felt I would have to kill myself if I had to read it myself.

Carole said...

And I love that you read to the kids. Very, very cool.

no longer anonymous said...

My son lost interest in the Harry Potter books around book 5 but by then I already completeley hooked. I have never read Philip Pullman's books but you can bet I will now. Thanks

gimme a minute said...

Congrats on reaching the finishing line, Kim.

I don't think you're alone, Carole. It only took me a book and a half to crack.

My Common Law reads the HP in our house, (we take turns at stories) and I'm alternating between Eoin Colfer's 'Artemis Fowl' series and good old Narnia.

Do you think eleven is a good age to begin 'His Dark Materials', Kim? I've read them myself (thanks to jk really) and can't wait to start on them with my eldest. Eight, though, seems a little young...

sarah said...

that is so cool Kim. i remember my mom reading to me - its has remained a highlight in my memories.

"Uncle Remus" one of my favorites was "De Tar Baby". (my mom was good at southern american accents.)

Julie said...

My husband and I overheard his cousin and her then-boyfriend (now husband) reading to each other one night and thought we'd try it, too. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix had just come out, so that's where we started.

He hadn't read any of the previous books, and after we finished it (and learned that I fall asleep when people read to me), we started at Book 1.

With the last book, I finished it by Sunday morning. I had taken breaks and read a few chapters aloud as well, but I made him wait to find out. I was careful not to spoil the ending.

Eryl Shields said...

I haven't read any of the Harry Potter Books but I love the films.

I was still reading Bob a bedtime story everynight when he was thirteen and then one night he just said to me 'I think I can put myself to bed now.' And that was the end of that. He still likes to have his head stroked though!

P.S. Have you heard, we have managed to save the university, I still can't quite believe that we can stop fighting.

Sayre said...

Oh, that's lovely. I think my son is finally old enough to start with HP1. Perhaps I'll read it to him. But I have to dig it out of the boxes in the garage first...

Sandy said...

Well done Kim that's a lot of reading out loud. I got to finish the series off in the relative piece and quiet inside my own head (I still get interupted with the occasional "Is it nearly tea time yet" or "How do you fancy a biscuit?")and quite glad I am to see it all finished. Interesting to see what she's going to write next.

Good luck with the Dark Trilogy (I certainly enjoyed it). What's next.

Sandy

Sandy said...

kPiece!!! Peace - sorry. There are times when you spot your own mistakes and they make you cringe a bit, so let me correct it myself.

Sandy

Kim Ayres said...

Mary - Reading the Japanese one? Seriously impressive!

Carole - If it hadn't been for my son, I doubt I would have read them all. However, if nothing else I started to get curious how it was all going to end. The main enjoyment has always been the shared experience with Rogan

No Longer - I would definitely recommend the Pullman books.

Gimme - I've been waiting for a few years to read him the 'His Dark Materials' series. I figured eleven was old enough to start and understood that I'd probaby have to make frequent stops to try and explain some of the concepts.

When I started reading them I did fear that an awful lot of it would just go straight over his head, but he got enough of it to absolutely love the stories.

These are books he will come back to again when he's older and understand more levels then.

Eight probably is a bit young, although I see they're bringing out a film of the first book this christmas

Sarah - I hope it's one of those things he looks back on with fond memories - something to counteract all the things he's likely to be cursing me for in therapy...

Julie - I used to read to my wife more often but she invariably falls asleep. She assures me it's because my voice is so soothing and relaxing rather than just because I'm a boring old fart. I like to believe her...

Eryl - WooHoo!!! That's excellent news. Your fellow students should be hoisting you up on their shoulders and parading you around the campus

Sayre - and then organise your bookshelves...

Sandy - I've been trying to think what to introduce him to once we've finished 'The Amber Spyglass'. Assuming he's still OK withme reading to him, I might try him with some Terry Pratchett's Discworld books. He enjoyed "The Hogfather" production on SKY my father taped for us.

PI said...

It's a precious part of parent/child bonding. My poor kids had to survive with Noddy and Big-Ears and that imbued my eldest with a dread of the downstairs loo which he was convinced was over run with crabs.

Julie said...

Kim, I'm with Maggie on this one. There's nothing more soothing to me than my husband reading to me. I don't fall asleep if he's telling me a personal story -- just when he's reading a book.

Andraste said...

You're right, Kim. The writing did get better as the series went on. By book 7 JKR was writing some of the best action sequences she's ever done. That film of this one should be a special effects masterpiece.

Yes, I just outed myself. I'm a Harry Potter geek. Not proud.

Kim Ayres said...

Pat - Unfortunately I always end up thinking of the old joke "Why do elephants have big ears? - Because Noddy wouldn't pay the ransom..." everytime Noddy is mentioned

Julie - mind you, if I start putting on silly voices she wakes up quickly enough...

Andraste - I still remember my shock and surprise when, I think it was in the HP & the Order of the Phoenix, I noticed her first use of a semi-colon. I felt a certain level of respect that she was improving her writing rather than just cashing in on the success of the eariler books

Andraste said...

I wonder sometimes whether she started out as a mediocre writer, but then her writing got better as she wrote, or if she deliberately set out to have the narrative mature as her protagonist did...

If the latter, what a feat. If the former, well...GOOD.

Kim Ayres said...

I think the idea that is was deliberate is almost too scary to think. I would just hope that after 10 years or more of writing, she'd naturally be improving. Then again, I'm not sure how much my writing's improved after 2 years of blogging

Amy said...

We just started the first book at our home. In the US it is the sorcerer's stone (I guess philosophy doesn't sell as well here!). Now I know what all the fuss is about. I hope Emma still enjoys having me read to her when she is 12.

Kanani said...

Oh... I haven't read it. I'm not sure that I will. I stopped after the third one!

But I admire you greatly for finishing it without hearing any of the spoilers!

Kim Ayres said...

Amy - it seems it's not uncommon to change the names of books as they cross the pond. The Philip Pullman books mentioned have had a similar change. The first in the trilogy here is called "Northern Lights", but in the US it's called "The Golden Compass", which is also the title of the film version of it coming out this christmas.

Kanani - it's definitely a book you get more out of if sharing it with a child.

C in DC said...

Northern Lights was a very popular TV show in the 1990s about Alaska. Perhaps they changed the name of the Pullman novel (and definitely the movie) to avoid confusion.

I have a coworker who also read most of the HP series to his kids.

C in DC said...

Wait, that was Northern Exposure. Nevermind. Time to go home for the day.

The Birdwatcher said...

Every long car journey we do with the children is accompanied by a Harry Potter tape. (ok we have an old car) As a device to ensure a peaceful journey its brilliant. I just keep on getting woken up by the words "end of side etc etc".

PI said...

I used to know a Big Ears joke - it was a shaggy dog and I used to tell it with all the different character's voices and everyone was convulsed - well I was anyway, and it ended with BE telling little Noddy to
'Get stuffed!'
You had to be there!

michael greenwell said...

thats a really nice story. and i agree with you about his dark materials. can i point you to this about him too...

http://tinyurl.com/2uzd9e

Kim Ayres said...

C in DC - I never saw Northern Exposure, but when I was in Canada in the early 90s I do remember several people raving about it

Birdwatcher - I have a few story tapes that I bought just before I changed my car. I've never been able to listen to them as the new vehicle came with a CD player instead

Pat - you should record it and upload it to the web so we can all listen

Michael - I remember reading that over at your site - it's an excellent article

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