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KLIATTKern, an associate professor of history at Lawrence University, has written this for adults as well as YAs. His thesis is that Rowling's novels present an "updated Stoic moral system whose primary virtue is old-fashioned constancy-resolution in the face of adversity." Kern's five chapters are: "Imaginatively Updating and Old-Fashioned Virtue"; "Plot Threads and Moral Fibers"; "Harry Potter's Morality on Display"; "Greed, Conventionality, Demonic Threat"; and "Imagination, History, Legend, and Myth." An afterword deals with Rowling's latest book, The Order of the Phoenix, which was published just as Kern's was going to press. Kern finds much to admire in the Harry Potter books. Rowling's works "offer an exceptionally good example of how historical themes and topics can inform fictional storytelling, even when its setting is contemporary. Her use of the past takes three significant forms: (1) she draws upon history to give her magical world its appearance and customs; (2) she employs her characters' pasts to add to her dramatic portrayal of events; and (3) she develops a moral system that updates ethical principles with a very rich history of their own." Besides analyzing each book, Kern deals with Rowling's critics by name and in detail. Harry Potter and his fans, young and old, learn many lessons. In The Sorcerer's Stone they learn that everyone's fate is death, an obvious fact but a tough one for young readers and for Voldemort, who refuses to die. The Chamber of Secrets tackles prejudice, bigotry, and identity. Truth telling, submission to authority, and following the rules are not always the moral things to do in The Prisoner of Azkaban. Harry's moralabilities are more important than magical ones in The Goblet of Fire, as he struggles to resist evil. The Order of the Phoenix seems to portray a totally different boy, one who usually fails to subordinate his emotions to reason. "Bullying, impulsive, angst-ridden, perpetually angry with his friends and mentors, and sick and tired of their keeping him in the dark, Harry does anything but live up to the Stoic ideals so prominent in the first four books." Just like a teen. But it shows Harry's greatest weakness and greatest strength-love, the source of his power. Kern ends his volume with copious notes and a thorough bibliography,. Parents and teachers will find his book useful in discussing Rowling's popular novels with young people. KLIATT Codes: JSA-Recommended for junior and senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2003, Prometheus Books, 296p. notes. bibliog. index., . Ages 12 to adult.
— Janet Julian