One-Minute Book Reviews

May 25, 2021

A Hidden Theme in the Harry Potter Novels

Filed under: Uncategorized — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 9:31 am
Tags: , ,

Harry Potter was the literary influencer-in-chief for millennials. But did he shape their lives, or did they shape his? Journalist Charlotte Alter teases apart the issues in her new book about millennials, The Ones We’ve Been Waiting For. I write about Alter’s view, and why it isn’t incompatible with J.K. Rowling’s comment that the Potter novels are about death, or coming to terms with mortality, in my Lit Life feed on Medium.

April 16, 2008

J. K. Rowling Will Lose, and Here’s Why

Filed under: Children's Books,News,Novels — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:26 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

First, these words are being written by someone who thought Hillary Clinton couldn’t win New Hampshire after she got emotional a few days before the primary.

Second, I have no right to be writing about J. K. Rowling’s legal affairs, given that a) I have never finished a Harry Potter novel; b) I don’t usually cover publishing news; and c) my first-hand knowledge of Rowling consists almost entirely of having twice seen her on the street in front of a Tesco supermarket when I was living near her neighborhood in Edinburgh.

Even so, I must say it: Rowling and Warner Bros. Entertainment will lose their lawsuit against RDR Books, the would-be publisher of a book based on the Harry Potter Lexicon Web site, which went to trial this week in a federal court in Manhattan. Tim Wu, a law professor at Columbia University and copyright expert, made the best case I’ve read against her claims in an article in Slate in January The gist of it is that while Rowling has many rights as an author:

“ … Rowling is overstepping her bounds. She has confused the adaptations of a work, which she does own, with discussion of her work, which she doesn’t. Rowling owns both the original works themselves and any effort to adapt her book or characters to other media—films, computer games, and so on. Textually, the law gives her sway over any form in which her work may be ‘recast, transformed, or adapted.’ But she does not own discussion of her work—book reviews, literary criticism, or the fan guides that she’s suing. The law has never allowed authors to exercise that much control over public discussion of their creations.”

Wu didn’t predict that Rowling would lose, only expressed the view that she should, but that doesn’t need to stop the rest of us, does it?

That’s all I have to say, except that a) the Tesco in EH 8 has excellent white Stilton with apricots and b) I did predict the winner of this year’s Pulitzer for fiction.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

April 4, 2008

Today’s Gusher Award for Achievement in Hyperbole Goes to …

Filed under: Gusher Awards — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 10:09 am
Tags: , , , , ,

“I literally couldn’t stop reading. I didn’t get up to eat breakfast. I didn’t take the dogs out. I just sat, curled up in my study chair, a glorious blue and gold Saturday morning blazing outside the window, and I read. I stopped a few times, forcing myself to go more slowly, wanting to savor the plot, but before long I was galloping along once more, flipping the pages in a blur …”

From a review of Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows in Entertainment Weekly,,20044270_20044274_20047649,00.html.


So the critic “literally” didn’t stop, but actually did?

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

March 8, 2008

An Interactive Map of Storybook England for Children — Another Reason Why U.K. Tourist Services Are Better Than Ours

Filed under: Children's Books — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 7:30 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

An interactive map of storybook England shows places associated with Alice, Black Beauty, Harry Potter and other famous characters

One of the great pleasures of visiting Britain is that the government hires a lot of people who can help you find your way around instead of doing what we do here in the U.S., which is to tell visitors: “You want information about our country? Pray for a taxi driver who speaks English.” Pause. “If that fails, you could always ask the person who mugs you.”

Many of the helpful Brits work for the tourist boards Visit Britain, Visit Scotland and Visit Wales And some of them came up with a great interactive online map of England that lets children learn about places linked to characters in books like Black Beauty, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and the Harry Potter series.

I learned about this delightful storybook map from Ceri Radford, who wrote in her blog about books in the Telegraph: “You can browse by book title, then click to find out more about the work and its location. Kudos to Enjoy England, the marketing arm of Visit Britain, for coming up with the idea.” You can read more about it here

(c) 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

August 17, 2007

Harry Potter and the Critic Who Gave Up (Books I Didn’t Finish)

The latest in an occasional series of posts on books I didn’t finish and why I didn’t

Title: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Scholastic, $34.99), by J.K. Rowling

What it is: “The seventh and final installment in the epic tale of Harry Potter” (dust jacket).

How much I read: The first two chapters, a total of 29 pages.

Why I stopped reading: This novel wasn’t good enough or bad enough to hold my attention. I hadn’t read the first six books in the series, so opening this one was like walking into cocktail party full of people I didn’t know. The first chapter seems to involve mainly the bad guys. They have names like Snape, Malfoy and Voldemort, and they’re all sitting around a table plotting to kill Harry. But I was skeptical about whether they’d pull it off, because a white peacock appears on page 2. And here’s how critics read books: “White (symbol of purity) + peacock (symbol of immortality in Christian art) = pure character/Christ figure lives.” White is also a symbol of resurrection. So, I figured, the deal might instead be: “White peacock = Christ figure dies but is resurrected.” Naturally, I have no idea how things turned out. I may have looked at one too many peacocks on cathedral walls or altarpieces. But I didn’t want to slog through 759 pages only to yell at the end, “It was obvious! Major resurrection symbol on page 2!”

Best line in what I read: A line from a newspaper obituary written by one character for another: “Several of his papers found their way into learned publications such as Transfiguration Today, Challenges in Charming, and The Practical Potioner.” Nice satire, especially that Challenges in Charming.

Worst line in what I read: The names of some characters, such as Dolohov and Grindelwald, clash with the best in the series and seem unconsciously to imitate Tolstoy, Agatha Christie and others. It’s as though Rowling had named these characters 15 minutes after she finished reading War and Peace or Murder on the Orient Express.

Published: July 2007

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

August 3, 2007

Harry Potter and the 24 Violent Deaths

Filed under: Children's Books — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:21 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Still hoping to get to that 759-page Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows on my desk. The most interesting brief review of the novel I’ve read that’s easily available online is Philip Hensher’s “No More School” in the July 28, 2007, issue of the British weekly The Spectator.

“I think there are 24 named characters who meet a specified violent death in this volume, and over 50 others, we are told, are killed anonymously,” Hensher writes. Still, he liked it better than the last couple of books in the series: “It has the great virtue of not being much concerned with that boring school.”

It’s fascinating that parents who closely monitor video-game ratings and don’t allow their children to watch NC-17 movies rushed out to buy this one for Conner and Schuyler.

To read the review, search for “Harry Potter” at

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

July 22, 2007

When They’re NOT ‘Just Wild About Harry’ … Books for Adolescents and Teenagers Who Have Lost Interest in the Harry Potter Series

Filed under: Memoirs,Nonfiction,Young Adult — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 2:03 am
Tags: , , , , ,

What kinds of books would interest older adolescents who have outgrown Harry Potter? One-Minute Book Reviews had suggestions for teenage boys on July 6, 2007 Today: a couple of recommendations for teenage girls. Both of the following new releases are adult books that may also interest many girls ages 13 and up (and some younger ones who are strong readers).

By Janice Harayda

Looking for a book for a teenage girl who loves to read? Consider Mindy Schneider’s Not a Happy Camper (Grove, $24) Schneider remembers her eight weeks an off-the-wall summer camp at the age of 13 in this light and lively memoir. (Sample experience: A bunkhouse burned down when a group of boys put candles under their beds to see if they could warm them up by nightfall.) Not a Happy Camper is a book for adults, reviewed on this site on July 17, that teenagers and their parents may enjoy for different reasons. And because it is an adult book, you don’t have to worry that most 16-year-olds will find it “too young.”

Teenage girls may also enjoy Marjorie Hart’s lovely memoir, Summer at Tiffany (Morrow, $14.95). As students at the University of Iowa, Hart and one of her sorority sisters become the first female pages at Tiffany & Co. in 1946, when the Fifth Avenue jewelry store had trouble finding male employees because World War II. And Hart recalls the experience warmly in Summer at Tiffany, reviewed on this site on July 2, 2007 Bcause Japanese surrendered while she was living in the city, she also gives a memorable account of how New Yorkers celebrated the end of World War II.

Caveat lector: The books reviewed today and on July 6 are not gender-specific. Many girls might like the books reviewed two weeks ago, and many boys might like those discussed today. I’ve recommended the books for “boys” or “girls” only because many parents come to this site looking for books for one sex or the other. And those labels will make it easier for them to find the posts through search engines.

Read excerpts from Not a Happy Camper and Summer at Tiffany: You can read an excerpt from Not a Happy Camper at To read the first chapter of Summer at Tiffany, to and search for the title of the book. Click on “Search Inside,” then on “Chapter 1.” When you see the first page of Chapter 1 on your screen, click on the arrows on the top of the toolbar to “turn” the pages.

Click on “Children’s Books” under “Categories” in the right-hand column on the One-Minute Book Reviews home page to read reviews of books for younger children, including toddlers, preschoolers and young school-age children.

A review of a book or books for children or teenagers appears every Saturday on One-Minute Book Reviews. Today’s review is a day late because of the Harry Potter feeding frenzy and, in a normal week, would have appeared yesterday.

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

July 21, 2007

Alas! Harry Potter 16, Philip Larkin 0

Filed under: Poetry — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 7:04 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Game over for boy-wizard-versus-titan-of-20th-century-poetry?

Alas! All the Harry Potter posts have finally ousted the great English poet Philip Larkin from the top 50 posts in the Entertainment category on the WordPress News Front Page As of 6 p.m. Eastern time there were 16 posts about Potter and none about Larkin. Or, more specifically, no sign of “The Case Against Poetry Readings” that’s been holding for a day or.

So this match is over unless Larkin gets a link big enough to thrust him back into the limelight. Do you think there’s any chance that Scobleizer will develop a sudden interest in poetry? Some of those tech geek bloggers must know that Larkin is a Killer App …

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

News Flash on Philip Larkin/Harry Potter Title Bout on WordPress News Front Page

Filed under: Poetry — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 10:47 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

A miracle! After nearly 24 hours, dead English poet Philip Larkin is still holding his own against all the Harry Potter posts among the top 50 posts in the Entertainment category on the WordPress News Front Page Larkin now stands at #42 on the list for his comments on poetry readings in “The Case Against Poetry Readings,” posted on One-Minute Book Reviews on July 19 Why isn’t Bob Costas covering this?

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

July 20, 2007

Could This Weekend’s Group Grope of Harry Potter Actually HARM Children? Quote of the Day

Filed under: Quotes of the Day — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 10:59 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

What could possibly be wrong with millions of children lining up to buy and read the same book at the same time? Here’s an answer from Ron Charles of the Washington Post:

“Consider that, with the release of each new volume, Rowling’s readers have been driven not only into greater fits of enthusiasm but into more precise synchronization with one another. Through a marvel of modern publishing, advertising and distribution, millions of people will receive or buy The Deathly Hallows on a single day. There’s something thrilling about that sort of unity, except that it has almost nothing to do with the unique pleasures of reading a novel: that increasingly rare opportunity to step out of sync with the world, to experience something intimate and private, the sense that you and an author are conspiring for a few hours to experience a place by yourselves — without a movie version or a set of action figures. Through no fault of Rowling’s, Potter mania nonetheless trains children and adults to expect the roar of the coliseum, a mass-media experience that no other novel can possibly provide.”

Ron Charles, a senior editor of the Washington Post’s Book World Section, in “Harry Potter and the Death of Reading,” Sunday, July 15, 2007, Page B01. I can’t link directly to this post but you can find it by Googling “Harry Potter and the Death of Reading.”

Comment by Janice Harayda:
I love Charles’s observation that reading a novel offers “that increasingly rare opportunity to step out of sync with the world, to experience something intimate and private, the sense that you and an author are conspiring for a few hours to experience a place by your selves.” This suggests the possible dark side not just of Harry Potter mania but of book clubs and all those campaigns that aim to get all the adults in a town to read the same book.

Could such efforts be a subtle way of co-opting the solitary pleasures of reading? What do you think?

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

Next Page »

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: