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Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling


Rating: (Recommended)


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Growing Up

I admit that rather than reading the earlier Harry Potter books, I listened to them on tape, from the fine unabridged versions recorded by Jim Dale. I decided to plunge into print with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and I’m glad I did. I may still listen to Jim Dale’s version, but holding the 900 page book felt good, and I anxiously turned every page to find out what happened. Phoenix is a darker book than the earlier ones, and Harry’s adolescent emotions are oscillating in every chapter. Here’s an excerpt of Harry’s emotions carrying him away, into trouble (pp. 242-3). This is a classroom scene from Chapter 12, with Professor Umbridge, the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher:

There was a short silence in which many members of the class turned their heads to frown at the three course aims still written on the blackboard.

Using defensive spells?” Professor Umbridge repeated with a little laugh. “Why, I can’t imagine any situation arising in my classroom that would require you to use a defensive speck, Miss Granger. You surely aren’t expecting to be attacked during class?”

“We’re not going to use magic?” Ron ejaculated loudly.

“Students raise their hands when they wish to speak in my class, Mr. _ ?_

“Weasley,” said Ron, thrusting his hand into the air.

Professor Umbridge, smiling still more widely, turned her back on him. Harry and Hermoine immediately raised their hands too. Professor Umbridge’s pouchy eyes lingered on Harry’s face for a moment before she addressed Hermoine.

“Yes, Miss Granger? You wanted to ask something else?”

“Yes,” said Hermoine. “Surely the whole point of Defense Aainst the Dark Arts is to practice defensive spells?”

“Are you a Ministry-trained educational expert, Miss Granger?” asked Professor Umbridge in her falsely sweet voice.

“No, but – “

“Well, then, I’m afraid you are not qualified to decide what the ‘whole point’ of any class is. Wizards much older and cleverer than you have devised our new program of study. You will be learning about defensive spells in a secure, risk-free way –“

“What use is that?” said Harry loudly. “If we’re going to be attacked it won’t be in a –“

Hand, Mr. Potter!” sang Professor Umbridge.

Harry thrust his fist in the air. Professor Umbridge promptly turned away from them again, but now several other people had their hands up too. …

“As long as you have studied the theory hard enough, there is no reason why you should not be able to perform the spells under carefully controlled examination conditions,” said Professor Umbridge dismissively.

“Without ever practicing them before?” said Parvati indredulously.

“Are you telling me that the first time we’ll get to do the spells will be during our exam?”

“I repeat, as long as you have studied the theory hard enough –“

“And what good’s theory  going to be in the real world?” said Harry loudly, his fist in the air again.

Professor Umbridge looked up.

“This is school, Mr. Potter, not the real world,” she said softly.

“So we’re not supposed to be prepared for what’s waiting out there?”

“There is nothing waiting out there, Mr. Potter.”

“Oh yeah?” said Harry. His temper, which seemed to have been bubbling just beneath the surface all day, was reaching boiling point.

“Who do you imagine wants to attack children like yourselves?” uinquired Professor Umbridge in a horribly honeyed voice.

“Hmmm, let’s think …” said Harry in a mock thoughtful voice, “maybe Lord Voldermort?”

Ron gasped; Lavender Brown uttered a little scream, Neville slipped sideways off his stool. Professor Umbridge, however, did not flinch. She was staring at Harry with a grimly satisfied expression on her face.

“Ten points from Gryffindor, Mr. Potter.”

Lots of students will enjoy that line: “This is school, Mr. Potter, not the real world.” The theme of growing up, and the influence of age appears late in the book in this quote from Dumbledore (p. 826):

“For I see now that what I have done, and not done, with regard to you, bears all the hallmarks of the failings of age. Youth cannot know how age thinks and feels. But old men are guilty if they forget what it was to be young … and I seem to have forgotten lately.”

Even Dumbledore appears vulnerable in Phoenix, and for that reason alone, you may enjoy reading this latest, and in my opinion, finest installment in the series.

Steve Hopkins, July 25, 2003


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The recommendation rating for this book appeared in the August 2003 issue of Executive Times

URL for this review: Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.htm


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