Remember how I read "Charlotte's Web" to William after the baby was born? I enjoyed it so much that I wanted to read something else out loud to William, but I hadn't found the perfect book yet. I tried to read "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" to him, but it just didn't appeal to him. I'd have thought that a book about a boy who wins a trip to a candy factory would definitely appeal to my sweet-toothed kid, but apparently not. (Too weird, maybe. The book, I mean. Not William.)
Well, as it turned out, the answer presented itself recently. David bought the new Lego Harry Potter video game for the PlayStation, and William was enthralled by it. This was no shock, given his long affinity for wizards, magic wands and castles. A boy who goes to school in a castle! Sign him up! But as he and David played the game, it occurred to me that William had no clue who all the characters were or what was happening in the game. I thought he might like to hear the story so the game would make more sense.
So I pulled out the first Harry Potter book and made myself hoarse because every time I finished reading a chapter aloud, William wanted me to keep going. We sped through that book, which is over 300 pages long, in just over a week. He immediately demanded that we start reading the second one as soon I finished the last page of the first one, in fact.
Yes, a fair amount of the story is going right over his head. But he's thoroughly enjoying it. He definitely understands that Harry and his friends are the "good guys" and that Voldemort is the "bad guy." And he's already asking how they defeat Voldemort. I'm like, "Um, don't hold your breath. That's in the last book, about 4,000 pages from now, kiddo."
I admit that I was a little hesitant at first to begin reading the Harry Potter books to William because a major part of Harry's story revolves around the fact that Voldemort killed his parents when he was a baby. (I'm not giving anything away here, am I? You've had a dozen years now to read the first book, so I won't feel too bad if I spoiled it for you.) I fretted that that was too scary for a four-year-old. I mean, it's one thing when a talking spider dies in a book. It's a whole other thing when a little boy's parents are murdered, you know? I didn't want him to worry that something is going to happen to his own parents. But William seemed to understand that it's just a story. He's always had a pretty sophisticated (for his age) grasp of the concept of something being "pretend" or "make-believe." And the fact that I keep repeating, "It's just a story now, okay?" probably reinforces that, too. He nodded in understanding when I explained that Harry's parents loved him so much that they protected him from Voldemort, and that seemed to satisfy him. He didn't seem to extrapolate from Harry to himself, which was a relief to me.
William also has announced that he'd be in Gryffindor, not Slytherin, because he would rather be like Harry, not like the Slytherins because they're "the meanies." Good call.
This was only maybe the second time I'd reread "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" since William was born. And it's funny how, as I was reading aloud, I kept having these thoughts that had never occurred to me before. I felt like Mrs. Weasley, fretting over how Harry's relatives never gave him enough to eat--the poor starving little boy. And they didn't even fix his glasses or give him a birthday cake. Sniff. And when we reached the scene where Harry sees his mom and dad in the Mirror of Erised, I actually had to pause for a minute and collect myself. William may not get upset about the poor little boy who loses his parents too much because he has no real context for that. But as a mother, I could barely stand the thought of this boy missing his parents so much and not even being able to remember them. I need to remember what I keep telling William, I guess.
Sniff. I really am getting to be an old softy, aren't I?
Not to be left out, Andrew's been doing a little reading of his own:
As long as the pages taste good, it's all fine with him!