Saturday, July 16, 2005

The Wait is Over

I was probably about 11 when it happened. I was at the library, checking out some books from the 'juvenile fiction' section. The librarian looked at my choices, and then looked at me."Haven't you read these before?" she asked. "Oh yeah, several times," I replied, "but there aren't any new books out." That's when she opened my world.

"Have you ever read Sherlock Holmes?" I didn'tknow what he wrote, I told her, but I would try anything that had words on paper. She laughed and took me into the holy of holies - the adult section. There, she pulled out a slim volume and handed it to me. "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" by Arthur Conan Doyle. "Give this a try," she said, "and let me know what you think."

Think? The foggy streets of Victorian London; Watson and Holmes calling for a transom cab; wondering who the man with the Twisted Lip really was; imagining how beautiful Irene Adler had to be; shivering in the dark, with Holmes and Watson as they saw the Speckled Band for the first time. Think? It's not rational, but I fell in love with Doyle's creation. So much, that by the time I walked home, I had read the entire book! Only the fact that the library was closed kept me from turning around and going back for more. But I was there the next morning, sitting on the steps when the librarian arrived to open the doors.

For millions of kids (and people who wish they were kids), the wait is over. "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" is finally out, and now the adventure begins. Forget about getting the kids to help with the chores; dinner may be late the next few weeks; the pool water will barely be rippled because everyone is sitting on the sides reading. The adventure of Harry, Hemione, Ron and the wizards and witches of Hogwarts continues.

I love the HP books. While they may not be "great" literature, they are a delight to read. And even more delightful is the fact that they give kids the incentive to read. Like my librarian of long ago, J. K. Rowling has opened up the world of reading to a whole new generation. What a gift!

And, intentionally or not, she reflects many of the gospel values. While not called as such, the characters and stories live out the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There are marvelous accounts of self-denial and sacrifice. There are even those who are willing to lay down their lives for their friends. And through it all is the assurance that evil and death do not have the final word in anyone's life, even that of a young wizard.

So, when I see the kids carrying around their copies, with the books sitting open on their laps as they immerse themselves in that magical world, I will smile and remember the magical world the librarian introduced me to years ago, and give thanks: for her, for Conan Doyle, for J. K. Rowlings, and especially for the gift of words that reflect the Word.

(c) 2005 Thom M. Shuman

1 comment:

Steven E. Wardwell said...

I had a similar experience with a librarian. Mrs. Foster encouraged me to expand my horizons of reading. Granted she did think Hamlet was a bit much for me at ten but Alice in Wonderland was indeed wonder-filled. Maybe at about twelve she introduced me to "The Bridge at San Luis Rey." and I came to love Thornton Wilder.
I think had I not gone into the ministry I would have been a librarian.
I have all the HP books but I am only into Goblet of Fire so I have some catching up to do. There is a sense in which HP is a Judy Blume novel in witches garb. (and with You - Know- Who whom we don't name) JKR has her finger on middle school and high school life and the teenage identity search. Reading them is a journey.