Friday, August 03, 2007

Harry Potter Is Finished; What Do I Read Next?

I could probably do HP posts 24/7.

But, for now, I'll pick on the Reader's Advisory portion of the program.

What do you recommend to people to read next?

I know there's been news about HP readers not reading anything "after." But I do think that many people, having found and loved HP, will be looking for what to read next. And I think our job, as readers, is to share our love for books by making recommendations. (And as a librarian, it's really my job!)

RA is an art form. There is no exact formula; ideally, it involves time, listening, and access to a lot of books. It's about hearing why someone liked a particular book; and using those things to find another book for them.

Common mistakes include thinking why you like the book so assuming that's true for everyone; or picking one main criteria and not going beyond that. Another mistake is not respecting the original book.

To use our boy Harry as an example, telling someone who has read, adored, and now cried over Harry Potter, "hey, that's great, I know books that are so much better written than that" is a sure fire way to turn the reader off. They know when you're dissing them and their choices.

And, again with Harry Potter -- all to often "readalike"* suggestions are very fantasy oriented. Because it's the easy tag. But guess what? People read HP for reasons other than fantasy.

So, here's my question. You have a reader (any age, second grader to grown ups; let's get as many books as possible) who adores HP and now wants.... more. Something else. What are some of the other things in HP that readers react to? And what books would you then recommend?

My answer:

Non fantasy elements about HP: orphans, school stories, boarding school stories, underdogs, humor, a story told over several volumes.

So, what books? And why? Now, keep in mind this doesn't have all those characteristics. But here are some ideas!

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken. orphan, underdogs, humor. (While this series turns out to be Alternate Universe, so could fall under a fantasy label, this book reads as strictly historical fiction.)

The Keeping Days books by Norma Johnston. Historical fiction; but the story is set over six books, with things from earlier books being very important in later books. Other "sweeping series" include the Sharpe books by Bernard Cornwell, the Poldark books by Winston Graham, and the Aubrey-Maturin books by Patrick O'Brian. Honestly, I haven't read all these books; but the Sharpe books and the O'Brien books also have the elements of friendship and adventure that many HP readers like.

A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Orphan. And, of course, FHB's other titles may fit, also: The Secret Garden has the orphan element, and Little Lord Fauntleroy has the "poor boy who turns out to be rich" element.

So, what would you recommend, and why? The only rule is: no fantasy!

* I have nothing against booklists like that! I like them, make them, use them. But I prefer one on one with kids and teens and adults, because it's a better fit.


Libby said...

well, if you want boarding school novels, there's Catcher in the Rye, A Separate Peace, and Good Times/Bad Times, which are all non-fantasy and for older readers than your hypothetical second-grader but could still fit in the age range, right? For orphans, how about Great Expectations? I think Rowling is pretty Dickensian in the scope of her imagination, and I'd love to see HP readers move on to his novels--it could happen!

Lesa said...

Well, there is a terrific fantasy series right now with the right elements - loners, boarding schools. Often the kids are ADHD, and they only live with one parent. Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson & The Olympians has all of those elements plus an excellent background in Greek mythology. What more does a reader want than a young person who becomes a hero, has adventures on school breaks? In the most recent book, the vice-principal turns into a monster. I think they're well-done, and the mythology is superb.

Monica Edinger said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Monica Edinger said...

Sorry, I deleted that last comment because it was all fantasy. Then I reread your post.

Anthony Horowitz's Alex Rider series offer a similar sturdy read and great adventure. They are very popular among my boys. (Of course, as a 4th grade teacher, I see very few kids compared to you!)

And I do love Burnett myself, but I've rarely had kids who will read her. Those who do are girls who read widely, particularly older books. I've had even less luck with Aiken. I can only think of one kid in all my years at my current school who read her, a very very sophisticated boy reader.

Saints and Spinners said...

What, no fantasy? Preposterous! Actually, I can relate. I feel as if I've eaten too many chocolate peanut butter cups in regard to fantasy. After HP, I'd recommend reading the Melendy Family quartet by Elizabeth Enright: four children have adventures of the perfectly plausible kind (yeah yeah, if you ignore the fact that in the first book, young children get to wander around NYC), they're well-adjusted, the family's got a healthy support network, and the children actually have a pretty good idea of what they want to do in their lives. Their mother is dead, but their housekeeper is a wonderful step-mother figure. Really, the Melendy Quartet falls into the category of "And now for something completely different...."

Julie said...

This is a good question... I'll think on it. In the meantime, I had to go over to NoveList K-8 to see whether I could remember if I had read the Melendy books as a child, and I think I must have, at least the first two... I would not have thought to recommend those after HP! A good idea! And I do know some readers who like both HP and Secret Garden, although I may not have made the connection without Liz's post.

Anonymous said...

For girls ages 12+, I would recommend The Poison Apples by Lily Archer. Three girls escape bad family situations by attending a boarding school and finding each other. It has humor and heart, and it's--hmm, how to put this?--more wholesome than Private or Looking for Alaska. The only bad thing is it won't be published until September 18.