Principal: ‘Harry Potter’ damages young brains

Fantasy books “can damage the sensitive subconscious brains of young children” and lead to mental illness, writes Graeme Whiting, headmaster of the private Acorn School in England.

Is Harry Potter's evil foe, Voldemort, too dark and nasty for children?

Is Harry Potter’s evil foe, Voldemort, too dark and nasty for children?

J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series,  Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones, and Terry Pratchett’s novels “contain deeply insensitive and addictive material which I am certain encourages difficult behaviour in children,” wrote Whiting in a post that’s gone viral. “Yet they can be bought without a special licence.”

Whiting wants “children to read literature that is conducive to their age and leave those mystical and frightening texts for when they can discern reality, and when they have first learned to love beauty.”

Lord of the Rings' Sauron is evil.

Sauron, the Lord of the Rings, is evil.

He praised the “old-fashioned values of traditional literature,” such as Shakespeare, Keats, Dickens and Shelley.

“Beware the devil in the text!” Whiting concludes.  “Choose beauty for your young children!”

I loved fantasy books when I was a kid, though I didn’t go from C.S. Lewis’ Narnia books to Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings till I was in sixth grade. I think my brain survived. But, then, I wouldn’t know if it hadn’t, would I?

As a child, Neil Gaiman was allowed to read whatever he liked, he tells the Guardian. Somehow that’s not a surprise.

“I definitely haven’t been traumatised for life and I’m not entirely sure if the subversive element made things enjoyable,” says Gaiman. “Except possibly in Chaucer and The Bible, where you’re actually discovering murder and masturbation – and you’re going ‘this is cool, this is subversive, because it’s the stuff they want us to read and they seem to have forgotten that it’s filled with stuff that they don’t want us to read’.”

We read Canterbury Tales in 10th grade English and were astounded — and delighted — by the dirty jokes. Finding sex jokes in Shakespeare was fun too.

Newbery goes to ‘The Graveyard Book’

The Graveyard Book, a Jungle Book takeoff about a toddler raised by ghosts and werewolves, has won the Newbery Award for children’s literature.

(Neil) Gaiman’s book opens with a baby boy escaping an assassin who is massacred by his parents and older sister. The boy totters to a decrepit cemetery, where he’s adopted by ghosts, christened Nobody Owens (Bod for short) and given the Freedom of the Graveyard.

On Gaiman’s blog, he writes that “The Graveyard Book” is not a children’s book. It’s “a book for pretty much for all ages, although I’m not sure how far down that actually starts. I think I would have loved it when I was eight, but I don’t think that all eight-year olds were like me.”

The book isn’t meant to be scary, says Gaiman. It’s about growing up.

The award maintains the modern Newbery tradition of honoring books about death and parental absence. But it sounds like more fun than some of the recent honorees, which have been criticized for being inaccessible and dreary. It was a best-seller pre-Newbery.